In 2017, choreographer Yvonne Ng commissioned Nick Storring to compose music for a piece with five dancers to be performed at the Banff Centre, a circumstance requiring Storring to depart from his characteristically dense works with multiple layered instruments. His solution was a tape piece that was restricted to multiple pianos, making the most of their resonant possibilities. Over four years, Storring recorded concert grands, the piano harp of an old upright, and a Yamaha Disklavier. The result is a complex, multi-textured work that explores the possibilities of the piano’s resonance, as well as its scraped and struck strings.
The work begins with a glowing hum of hanging sustained overtones, against which Storring etches a sparse melody. As the piece develops, textures become increasingly complex, including liquid, resonating, scalar phrases, along with sonic tapestries of consonant tones in clusters. By the sixth of its eight movements, it has become a maze of percussive textures and shifting prepared sounds; a virtual orchestra of pianos reflecting diverse techniques—plucked and prepared strings, drumming on the frame—while the harp-like sweeps of the seventh movement give way to compounding keyboards that together create rapid percussive polyrhythms. The ultimate segment has a rainfall of chirping upper-register notes, quietly menaced by dramatic sweeps and echoing blows against the strings, until a strong melody appears, drawn across a host of subtle sound effects, from plucked strings to bell-like resonances.
The cumulative impact of Music from Wéi suggests a room filled with pianos played in multiple ways; the work’s rhythmic and timbral complexity held in check by the lyricism and hypnotic hum of a wholly tonal core.