Keys to the Future will present an evening of Minimalist solo and duo piano works on Sunday, April 5 7:30PM, at Le Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker Street, between Thompson and Sullivan).

Pianists Stephen Gosling, Blair McMillen, Lisa Moore, Molly Morkoski and Joseph Rubenstein will present a wide range of Minimalist solo and duo works, including Steve Reich’s seminal Piano Phase (1967) and John Adams’ Hallelujah Junction (1996). As the date approached, I thought I’d write a few words about a couple of the pieces on this concert.

I will open the concert with 6 selected works of Howard Skempton. Skempton has worked for decades in England as a composer, accordionist, and music publisher. He studied in London with Cornelius Cardew in 1967 and Cardew helped him to discover a musical language of great simplicity. Since then he has continued to write unaffected by compositional trends, producing more than 300 works – many of which are miniatures for solo piano or accordion. Skempton calls these pieces “the central nervous system” of his work. Many of his compositions have been recorded, including selected piano works performed by John Tilbury on the Sony Classical label. I will be performing 6 works from the 1970s and 80s, the last of which – Well, well Cornelius (1989) – was written as a tribute to Skempton’s teacher.

Lisa Moore will then play Ryan Brown’s Ceramics (2002) – here are some notes by the composer: “My grandmother had an enormous collection of fancy old teacups that she kept in a large glass china cabinet in an immaculate, incredibly quiet, and primarily white-toned living room. I used to clean every single cup by hand when I stayed with her during the summer. The image of all those cups shining in that large, bright, glass-and-mirror cabinet kept coming to me while I was writing Ceramics. This is music for teacups.”

Blair McMillen and Stephen Gosling will conclude the program with Steve Reich’s Piano Phase (1967), which was Reich’s first attempt at translating his famous “phasing technique” from recorded tape to live performance. In Piano Phase the performers repeat a rapid twelve-note figure, initially in unison. As one player keeps tempo with robotic precision, the other speeds up very slightly until the two parts line up again, but one sixteenth note apart. The second player then resumes the previous tempo. This cycle of speeding up and then locking in continues throughout the piece, casting a hypnotic spell.

I’ll try and post here again tomorrow about a couple of the other pieces on the program, which are John Adams’ “Hallelujah Junction” (1996), Ryan Brown’s “Ceramics” (2002), Nico Muhly’s “A Hudson Cycle” (2002), and David Lang’s sublime “Wed” (1997).

“SPOTLIGHT on Minimalism,” takes place this Sunday, April 5, at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City at 7:30PM. Admission is $15. Le Poisson Rouge is on 158 Bleecker Street, between Sullivan and Thompson St. For complete information about this concert and our upcoming 3-day festival of contemporary solo piano music (May 19-21), please check out our newly updated website:

Any questions can be directed to Le Poisson Rouge: (212) 505-3474 or to

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you there.

Joseph Rubenstein

Artistic Director, Keys to the Future

“Keys to the Future: SPOTLIGHT on Minimalism” is made possible in part with public funds from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

2 thoughts on “A Preview of “SPOTLIGHT on Minimalism” – Sunday, April 5 7:30PM at Le Poisson Rouge”
  1. Kudos to you, Joe, for this enterprising concert. LPR is of course a great venue for this kind of thing. And thanks for programming Skempton. I’ve been a fan of his work for years and he offered me some strong encouragement as a composer, which I’m grateful for.

  2. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I believe Reich’s Reed Phase was his first attempt at the phasing technique on live instruments. Reich has basically disowned this work though there are versions available, including one by Ulrich Krieger on his Wall of Sound II album.

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