Writings about Music
About A Pianist
Yuja Wang is the only pianist I am aware of who possibly might be able to play works like Spirit Lady, Carnelian Compass, Taffeta Patterns, and even, on the other end of the spectrum, Garlanded In Wistaria, in terms of both having the technical capability and conveying expressive nuances of music conceived for meruvina. And she may even be in her element doing so, if a yet undiscovered essence, the works she currently plays being admirable music of past times, with past syntax, and past cultures (meaning capturing certain cultures at past moments of time), all most precious (not being familiar with her full repertoire, perhaps including current works emulating those traditions), but nonetheless, far from my personal perception of the here and now moving forward, including original assimilations of Indian classical music and American jazz elements into composition. It would be fascinating if she were to take her formidable keyboard gifts into a domain inhabited by an instrument-orchestra born in our time, showing she may hold her own, and perhaps even add new dimensions, transcending mediums.
There are many more compositions I might have included above, these simply being mostly recent ones that came to mind at the moment.
Computers can apparently defeat anyone in chess, including world champions, but music is ultimately much more subjective, and more about the moment and journey rather than an athletic or game contest. Of course, Morton Feldman would argue that last point, believing music composition is historically absolutely a competition among what he termed "strong" alternatives, having told me at CalArts, for example, that Steve Reich (a mentor of mine) and Morton Subotnick (one of my teachers) were composers he "worried about," and his perspective is certainly valid, too.
Obviously, I'm all for Yuja's existing repertoire, merely sharing a way of possibly expanding it, perhaps even affording new insights into those earlier works, too. At the same time, I know my idea is extremely unlikely, a passing thought occurring after hearing her play on YouTube.
Regarding Yuja's concert dress, all power to her. I only mention this because some have expressed overly conservative and restrictive reservations.
- Michael Robinson, May 2021, Los Angeles
© 2021 Michael Robinson All rights reserved
Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and musicologist who has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University.