Orchard, Volume 5 (2018)


  •  Buddha’s hand
  •  ghost pepper
  •  okra
  •  pistachio
  •  poblano
  •  star anise


Each of these pieces were originally composed as part of a larger collection of 50 solo piano works, collectively titled Orchard. Each piece in Orchard is named for and inspired by a botanical fruit. This is the final volume of five, sorted by difficulty: Volume 1 is the easiest set, while Volume 4 is the most difficult. Volume 5 consists of only pieces utilizing extended techniques.

Buddha’s hand is a fragrant fruit characterized by it’s sprawling, finger-like segments. When writing this piece, I imagined what it might sound like if Buddha’s hand was used to play the piano, resulting in a work that exclusively uses extended techniques such as plucking, muting, and harmonics.

Will Borich is a friend of mine from my undergraduate days, and he now works mostly in theater lighting design. Will commissioned a piece from Orchard to performed on a lighting console: different notes result in different colors and features which he would decide upon and map out. To me, the equivalent of this musically is to allow a pianist to prepare the piano in such a way where each note has its own special effect; similarly, a pianist could incorporate auxiliary instruments into the performance of this piece, such as adding handheld or percussion instruments. ghost pepper could, in this sense, be whatever the performer wants it to be.

okra is one of the more pedagogical pieces in this collection, intended to introduce pianists to muting the strings. The first half of the piece is played normally, while the second half is almost entirely muted. The okra fruit are full of seeds, with a slimy flesh: this translates musically into the muted pitches (the seeds) within the flesh (normally played material).

pistachio is performed extensively inside the piano with extended techniques such as muting of the strings and harmonics. These techniques represent the outer shell of a pistachio, while the “regular” notes represent the edible portion of the fruit.

poblano consists of two different types of tone clusters: one is the standard arms-across-the-keys vertical tone clusters; the other is what I refer to as a “moving cluster,” which is indicated by a collection of pitches that the performer may play in any order for the indicated duration.

Most people are likely familiar with star anise as a type of spice, but the spice is actually derived from the fruit of a specific evergreen tree. In star anise, the pianist explores the capabilities of harmonics on the piano: there are only three notes played (which later turn into three chords), but the pianist touches specific points on the string to elicit the harmonics. At the end of the piece, this is done by sliding the hand up and down the string; to me, this sound reminds me of the twinkling of stars in the night sky.


Orchard - Volume 5