Toy pianist and artistic director Ju-Ping Song joins her Lancaster, PA based group NakedEye Ensemble for an album of new solos and ensemble works for toy piano by several composer colleagues of hers. From Ge Ganru's Peking Opera inspired "Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!" to Richard Belcastro's gritty duo piece with electric guitar "Knock Em' Back," this recording presents the toy piano at the center of several diverse compositional approaches.
|01||Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!|
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!
|Ju-Ping Song, voice & toy instruments||12:31|
Gossamer WingsErik Griswold
|Susanna Loewy, flute, Ryan Kauffman, saxophone, Peter Kibbe, cello, Chad Kinsey, electric guitar, Ju-Ping Song, toy piano, Adam Rosenblatt, xylophone & toy drum kit|
|05||Babbling Tower to Tower|
Babbling Tower to Tower
|Ju-Ping Song, toy piano||8:29|
Knock 'Em BackRichard Belcastro
|Ju-Ping Song, toy piano, Chad Kinsey, electric guitar/pedals|
|Ju-Ping Song, toy piano||3:06|
Lancaster, PA based NakedEye Ensemble releases their latest recording, “Toy,” featuring their artistic director, Ju-Ping Song, in works for toy piano that highlight its versatility as a solo instrument, in ensemble, and as a catalyst for experimentation. The repertoire on the recording covers considerable stylistic ground, placing the instrument in contexts that highlight both its capacity for intensity and whimsy.
The recording opens with Ge Ganru’s Peking Opera-inspired melodrama, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!, for voice and toy instruments. The bell mechanism of the toy piano creates a ceremonial atmosphere, as other toy instruments reinforce the setting over which the inflected vocal performance unfolds. Various percussive effects, glissandi on a zither, and a brief toy accordion passage are among the many colorful sounds integrated into this engaging, narrative driven work.
Erik Griswold’s Gossamer Wings includes five other members of the NakedEye Ensemble. Joined by saxophone, electric guitar, flute, cello, and percussion, the toy piano takes a soloistic role in the eclectic piece. The opening movement, “Spinning,” is suggestive of incidental music to accompany a film or onstage action. A wry humorous march anchors the second movement, “Suspended,” and the final movement, “Moon Dancing,” centers on a repetitive groove articulated by toy piano in conjunction with a quirky battery of percussion across different registers, with a middle section featuring the melodic instruments.Read More
Rusty Banks’ Babbling Tower to Tower begins with short improvisatory fragments on the toy piano, before the live sound is sent through a cell phone, as the signal goes out to a third party and then receives it back and acts as a speaker for the processed sound. Percussive effects on the body of the toy piano initially serve to demonstrate the filtering, before Banks reintroduces the musical material from the intro, triggering a unique halo surrounding the performed sound reminiscent of flanger and delay effects from guitar pedals. The musical material becomes increasingly insistent as it reaches a climax, before retreating to the fragmented phrasing of the introduction, alternating between pitched and percussive material.
Richard Belcastro’s Knock ‘Em Back for modified toy piano and electric guitar is emblematic of his joyful embrace of influences from the world of classic rock. The opening movement features fuzz laden bluesy riffs, and the second is an oblique pas de deux between sliding and bent notes with an e-bow and short articulations on the toy piano. A very quick tremolo effect obscures the guitar timbre in the next movement, shading jangly rhythms in the two instruments. Delay effects lay down a heavy pulse in the following movement as the toy piano articulates interlocking rhythms on the keyboard and with auxiliary percussion sounds resulting from the modifications to the instrument. Movement six features glissando effects on the toy piano, with the guitar providing a sonorous pad of clean harmonics. The final movement returns to the distorted sound world of the earlier movements, an angular jousting match between the instruments.
Jan Fedderson’s Ujoforyt closes this recording with a relentless torrent of arpeggiated notes on the toy piano. The composite sound of this level of velocity of notes on the instrument lays bare the percussive mechanical apparatus of this instrument, displaying its capacity to be so much more than a mere toy in the hands of a virtuoso performer and creative composers, such as Ju-Ping Song and her colleagues.
– D. Lippel
An eclectic eight-member electro-acoustic ensemble with classical, rock, and jazz DNA, award-winning NakedEye Ensemble commissions and performs seminal works by cross-over and cutting-edge composers. Presenting music of the imagination utilizing acoustic, electric, toy, kitchen, and noise-making instruments, NakedEye’s body of repertoire reflects the group’s mission to innovate and explore musical expression outside of convention. From notated works to guided improvisations for flexible instrumentation, the group has established a new music presence in its home city from which it collaborates with composers and performers to import and export musical works in a rich, ongoing artistic exchange. NakedEye believes in the power of new music to surprise, uplift, and change. Commissioned works have received first prize at NYC’s UnCaged Toy Piano Composition Competition (2011) and grants from New Music USA (2014, 2017). NakedEye's mission is supported by Thomas A. and Georgina T. Russo Family Foundation, Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, and individual donors. Based in Lancaster, PA, NakedEye Ensemble is led by pianist Ju-Ping Song.
Pianist Ju-Ping Song is internationally recognized as one of today’s champions of contemporary music. Her colorful and beyond-the-recital format performances have won her praise from critics as “an extraordinary pianist” (Boston Globe). In the process, she has inspired the creation and commission of new works by today’s under-40 and distinguished composers. Concerts and masterclasses take her to Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, Taiwan, Japan and the U.S. throughout the year, and she has been guest artist at Darmstadt Contemporary Music Workshop, Bogotá New Music Festival, Tanglewood Music Center, Florence Youth Orchestra Festival in Italy, Akyoshidai New Music Festival in Japan, Klub Katarakt Experimental Music Festival in Hamburg, Germany, and Chautauqua Music Festival in New York State, Omaha Under the Radar 2016, New Music Gathering 2016, among others. Ms. Song is the founder and artistic director of NakedEye Ensemble, a flexible new music group based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, whose mission is to promote works by living composers. She is also a founding member of FLAME Ensemble, an eclectic group of 25 musicians who host and perform in the annual FLAME Festival in Florence, Italy. Ms. Song has taught at New York University, Manhattan School of Music, and Hunter College. In 2008, she was on the piano faculty and head of new music studies at Pennsylvania Academy of Music in Lancaster, PA, before serving as Dean in 2010. She holds a B.A. from Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University; a M.M. from Manhattan School of Music; and a Ph.D. from New York University. Ms. Song lives and works in Lancaster, PA.
Ah, the move from fantasy to reality. Back In the 90s, there was a record purported to be Snoopy playing kids classics on toys. Flash forward, here we have a toy piano at the center of this set being taken seriously as an instrument. And there’s some pretty high minded stuff covered along the way. Amazingly, one of the ways you can take this set is to introduce junior to classical music much the same way Bugs Bunny introduced you. For fans of unbridled creativity that does color inside the lines, this is one seriously wild excursion. Check it out.
-Chris Spector, 7.1.19, Midwest Record