“I was born and raised in Kentucky, and for many generations my direct ancestors and extended family have been farmers. So, creating music that is ‘about’ soil, plant life, and the natural world, is my way of honoring that legacy.” Composer Tyler Kline’s tools, though, are not the plow – and vegetables are not the crop – in this collection of brief piano pieces commissioned by and for over a dozen pianists. Instead, Orchard is a celebration of fruit. Each sketch draws on a specific fruit’s texture, flavor, scent, and/or shape to create a musical character study. In addition to introducing delicious fruits, these pieces are reminiscent of Bartok’s piano studies (like Mikrokosmos) for children that tantalize the palette with extended techniques and tasty musical challenges.
Initially conceived as a commissioning consortium project in 2018, Kline’s Orchard collection encompasses a wide spectrum of contemporary styles and techniques across the 50 pieces. Listeners are invited into a variety of sound worlds, such as ethereal, polyrhythmic arpeggios in mangosteen; floral tremolo swells in lychee; a slightly sour waltz in lemon; the plucking of strings, and other sounds from inside the piano, in Buddha’s hand, and much more.
Fourteen pianists from around the world came together to record Orchard in Tampa, FL in 2019, including Mijung An, Ariadne Antipa, Brandon Baltodano, Logan Barrett, Sarah Abigail Del Monte, Ann DuHamel, Megasari Honggokusuma, Grace Huang, Eunmi Ko, Ying Long, Christy Salee, E-Na Song, Jescelyn Wijaya, and Agnieszka Zick.
The Orchard project has also served multiple purposes for pianists since its conception: to be an entrypoint for pianists unfamiliar with contemporary music and/or the commissioning process; a tool for piano teachers to introduce contemporary techniques and styles to pianists through the performance of shorter works; and to offer a flexible set of pieces that pianists can plug into their programming as they see fit. Likewise, as listeners make their way through this collection they are encouraged to shuffle the tracks, or devise their own playback sequence, changing the experience of Orchard each time they listen to it.
“Farming, you cultivate the land. You plant the seed. You care for it. You harvest the bounty. It’s a life cycle, much like beginning and completing a piece of music.”
Pianist Eunmi Ko, who also served as a producer of the album, notes, “I was searching for new repertoire for piano that I can introduce to my students who are often intimidated by twentieth and twenty-first century piano music. The whole process of commissioning, playing new pieces and extended techniques, working with Tyler, and recording the pieces was a rich learning experience for my students.”
Tyler Kline (b. 1991) is a composer, audio engineer, and radio broadcaster whose work is deeply influenced by the ideals of Wabi-Sabi, a Japanese aesthetic and worldview that values transience, imperfection, and impermanence. This manifests in Tyler’s music in a variety of ways: the use of extended sounds/techniques in order to obscure musical textures; rhythmic dissonance that disconnects melodic and harmonic lines from the overall pulse; and fleeting gestures that evoke the natural world. He is co-artistic director of Terroir New Music, an event series that combines the music of living composers with the work of local chefs and brewers. In addition to his work in composition, he is a classical music radio announcer at WSMR (Tampa, FL), where he also produces and hosts a weekly contemporary-music program called Modern Notebook.
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