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Explorations: Alex Stephenson

May 28, 2009

This week (June 3, 7pm!) I’ll be presenting the music of Alex Stephenson in the ongoing Explorations Series. We’ll be hearing his work Fantasy for Piano, performed by himself in a live performance at the Community Arts Center in Wallingford, PA.

Stephenson is an undergraduate composition major at the University of Chicago, studying with Yao Chen. Originally from Philadelphia, he studied with Joseph Nocella in piano and composition and Mara Park in cello. He has received awards from the New York Art Ensemble and ASCAP. Of course, you can find more information at his website.

Fantasy for Piano is a work for solo piano that has a more definite form than the title would suggest. The Fantasy title probably comes from its wandering tonalities, improvisatory style, and sections free of rhythmic structure. Generally dark and at times aggressive, the work would no doubt be a challenge to a pianist both in technical requirements and emotional sensitivity.

Personally, I could listen to the opening/closing gesture of the music over and over again. Its so apocalyptic and ominous. When followed up by the pensive moments in the beginning, it makes it so much more effective. It also sets up the journey that is the piece extremely well, flowing back and forth between these two feelings throughout the work.

This work may seem more conventional than its peers in Explorations, but the point of Explorations was never to seek out the weirdest or most challenging music I can find. Alex is a composer with a bright future (as dark as the music is) and is finding a way to be communicative through music. Fantasy for piano touches on a lot of different ideas available to composers today and allows them to freely mingle together, maintaining a level of accessibility to the average listener. That last bit, of course, should be important in any music but too often isn’t.

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