Scherzinger EtudesMartin Scherzinger & Bobby Mitchell

, composer


Composer Martin Scherzinger releases his second album with New Focus, Scherzinger Etudes, focusing on his piano etudes. Performed here by pianist Bobby Mitchell, Scherzinger describes these works as "a topological study of found musical sound," taking existing music by composers such as Brahms, Schumann, and Paganini, and putting them through "a hall of mirrors" to re-examine them from new angles and open our ears to their many possibilities.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 60:15
01The Horse Is Not Mine, a Hobby Horse
The Horse Is Not Mine, a Hobby Horse
Bobby Mitchell, piano2:28
02Verso il capo
Verso il capo
Bobby Mitchell, piano5:03
03Fast zu sorglos
Fast zu sorglos
Bobby Mitchell, piano2:20
04Errata Erratica
Errata Erratica
Bobby Mitchell, piano4:33
Bobby Mitchell, piano2:06
Bobby Mitchell, piano5:17
Bobby Mitchell, piano3:11
08Rondo à la Rondo
Rondo à la Rondo
Bobby Mitchell, piano2:08
09Paganini, Piano Hero
Paganini, Piano Hero
Bobby Mitchell, piano5:06
Bobby Mitchell, piano2:44
11Mbele ni Nyuma
Mbele ni Nyuma
Bobby Mitchell, piano3:56
Bobby Mitchell, piano2:49
13Mbiras de St. Gervais
Mbiras de St. Gervais
Bobby Mitchell, piano4:48
14Perso, ma felice
Perso, ma felice
Bobby Mitchell, piano3:13
15Verso il capo II
Verso il capo II
Bobby Mitchell, piano, Tom Rosenkranz, piano10:33

Composer and musicologist Martin Scherzinger brings a unique background to his work. Born and raised in South Africa, Scherzinger has made the vast realm of African musical traditions a focus of his research, both through deep investigation of original styles as well as an examination of how Western artists have engaged with, incorporated, and appropriated African music within their work. On this new release, featuring pianist Bobby Mitchell, we hear Scherzinger integrating two seemingly disparate musical worlds he was exposed to as a child – the European solo piano tradition and traditional African music. By manipulating and reordering material from Schumann, Brahms, Paganini, and Chopin and occasionally applying an “Africanized” rhythmic and motivic filter, Scherzinger reconciles his own musical youth while creating a fascinating hybrid.

Among Scherzinger’s axes to grind with the conventional Western understanding of music from Africa is a series of assumptions about the centering of rhythm, meter, and repetition over linear development and harmonic motion. He asserts that while this may accurately describe a surface level understanding of some African music, when one looks deeper, intricate mathematical patterning lies behind the organization of multiple parts and sections. His first release on New Focus, African Math, explored these ideas more explicitly through the lens of the piano trio. Here, by neutralizing some of the salient features of both African music (for instance, we are hearing this music on an equal tempered piano, not an instrument strongly associated with African music) and European piano music (many of the more linear types of harmonic progressions are rounded off to create cyclical structures), we hear similarities between the two we might not have noticed previously. Is it an imitation of a polyrhythmic cycle one might encounter readily in African traditional music, or music shaped by the lilt of a central European dance style?

The propulsive ostinato that opens into joyful arpeggiations in the opening track, The Horse Is Not Mine, a Hobby Horse, simultaneously suggests interlocking mallet instruments and the dynamism of implied counterpoint and registral voice leading in moto perpetuo textures.

The opening section of Verso il Capo, Verso il Capo II and Mbiras de St. Gervais hint at French Baroque style as well as spacious kora improvisations.

Some of the etudes lean more clearly in one direction or the other – Paganini, Piano Hero for instance is a more straightforward exploration of the famous Caprice theme and Occidentalism sounds like it could live in a collection of late Romantic character pieces.

Likembe-Liszt lives on the other side of the continuum, referencing a lamellophone common in the Congo and Uganda. And yet, underlying all of these examples are hints of a diverse sensibility from the other end of Scherzinger’s stylistic spectrum.

More often than not in Scherzinger’s fresh approach we can hear these influences at once, illuminating not only his personal exploration of common ground between the musics in his past but also the links between seemingly disparate musical traditions. Bobby Mitchell’s deft navigation of these stylistic allusions is seamless – rhapsodic when the texture calls for it and equally able to find the right touch and articulation to bring syncopated rhythms alive.

– Dan Lippel

Recorded by Ryan Streber at Oktaven Audio, Mt. Vernon, NY

Design: Wills Glasspiegel

Bobby Mitchell

Bobby Mitchell is an American pianist whose interests are embedded in the here and now of music as performance art, as well as the more standard classical repertory of centuries past. A frequent performer of new and rarely heard works, his interests lie mainly with the contemporary music canon and combining these works with the standard repertoire in an illuminating fashion. An instrumentalist who is not afraid to cross the traditional boundaries of programming and performance practice, he is active as a solo and collaborative concert pianist on modern and historical instruments and is also experienced in the fields of improvisation, composition, and conducting.

He has performed extensively in the Americas, across Europe, Asia, South Africa, and the Middle East, and recent highlights include concerto performances with Philippe Herreweghe and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century. Venues include the Menuhin Festival (Gstaad, Switzerland), the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Gran Teatre del Liceu (Barcelona), and Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington D.C.). He has otherwise performed as concerto soloist with orchestras and new-music ensembles in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Significant solo activities include numerous performances of Frederic Rzewski’s epic 36 Variations on The People United Will Never Be Defeated! and frequent work with composers such as Frederic Rzewski, Steve Reich, and Louis Andriessen as well as regular work with peer composers of his own generation. Rzewski recently wrote a solo piano work called Winter Nights for Bobby, who also gave the USA premiere of Rzewski’s Songs of Insurrection and was involved in the Dutch radio’s initiative to record Rzewski’s entire novel-for-piano The Road.

Bobby records for the Alpha / Outhere music label (Haydn on an original pianoforte), VDE-Gallo (Schumann live in San Francisco), and New Focus Records in New York (Martin Scherzinger's solo piano works). His YouTube channel has become an Internet phenomenon for classical and improvised piano music, with more than half-a-million views. Primary teachers include Nelita True, David Kuyken, Robert Hill, Rudolf Lutz, Stephen Perry, and Bart van Oort.

He is artistic director of the piano festival En Blanc et Noir, Festival International de Piano Robert Turnbull, a five-day celebration of live piano music that takes place every July in Lagrasse, France.

Martin Scherzinger

Martin Scherzinger's research specializes in sound studies, music, media and politics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a particular interest in the music of European modernism and after, as well as African music and transnational musical fusions. His research includes the examination of links between political economy and digital sound technologies, the poetics of copyright law in an international frame, the relation between aesthetics and censorship, the sensory limits of mass-mediated music, the mathematical geometries of musical time, and the history of sound in philosophy. This work represents an attempt to understand what we might call contemporary "modalities of listening;" that is, the economic, political, metaphysical, and technological determinants of both mediated and (what is perceived as) immediate auditory experience.

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