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EXCLUSIVE: Lisa Moore on 'Stone People' Cantaloupe Premiere at LPR Feb. 23

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Feb 22, 2016 10:19 AM EST

Lisa Moore is more than just a seminal New York pianist who founded the iconic Bang on a Can All-Stars. Her dynamic performances incorporate elemental designs that help her channel a unique flow in the way she plays the instrument. In a one-of-a-kind, one-night only showing, Lisa Moore will take to the downtown dwelling (Le) Poisson Rouge this Tuesday, Feb. 23 for a release show of her new album The Stone People.

Released via Cantaloupe Music, The Stone People is an eclectic anthology of John Luther Adams, Julia Wolfe, Martin Bresnick, Kate Moore and Missy Mazzoli. The album borrows it namesake from the Adams composition "Tukiliit," which at its root means "the stone people who live in the wind."

Sure, the title may seem romantic to a neo-classical landscape, but Ms. Moore's ability to hone in on the basis of playing--to accurately decipher the elements of the piano and its ability to sound like a force of weather--are an easy feat for her as an artist.

And perhaps that is what the thesis of the new endeavor is all about. On the disc, Martin Bresnick has a piece that delves into the mythology of the Yahi tribe. "Ishi's Song," the story of Ishi, is one in dealing with the last Native American's to live in total isolation from whites, and upon his death shared some of the native songs of his culture onto recording.

However, these recordings were mere fragments with "Ishi's Song" clocking in at seven seconds. Mr. Bresnick, though, expanded on those seven seconds and turned them into a grand composition of ethereal piano tapping.

This is what to expect on Stone People, with John Luther Adams adding to the premise of the recordings. His "Tuskiliit" incorporates the mythology, too, of Inuit rock formations that were found in the Arctic to signify certain landmarks. That, too, is essential to the collection's meaning.

Be sure to see Ms. Moore at (L)PR, with the event beginning at 7:30 p.m. Doors are at 6:30 with seated and standing areas available.

The Stone People is available now on on iTunes.

An exploration into the human experience and the world we live in, then, Lisa Moore was able to answer a few questions for us about her upcoming performance. Talking everywhere from Adams to her transformation as an artist per release, here are our minutes from our conversation with the pianist below.

CLASSICALITE: Lisa Moore, welcome. We're thrilled about the new album and have been dying to get some questions into you. For starters, what's the theme of the disc and how will that translate to a live performance of the music?

LISA MOORE: This album is about big things - big sounds, big places and big nature and the people within. It's about landscape, people and the scale of things. It's also about endangered things. Tukiliit ("the stone people who live in the wind") are these amazing, huge rock formations the Inuit people have been creating for centuries - to mark places in the Arctic - places that have meaning - perhaps a burial site or a hunting ground - landmarks. The rocks are known as "inuksuit" - "to act in the capacity of a human". They are mysterious, often rocks placed upon rocks, (like Stonehenge), almost man-made mountains. Tukiliit is the name of the title track on my cd - the composer John Luther Adams lived in Alaska for over 30 years. He subtitles this piece "the stone people who live in the wind".

Each work by each composer on this cd relates to a place that has significance. Where we are - who we are - how we relate to each other - how we relate to the natural world. For example Kate Moore's piece "Sliabh Beagh" means 'borderland' in Gaellic - it's the mountainous area between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic - she and I have been exploring our Northern Irish-Australian roots - what happens when we move or are displaced and how we survive.

CL: Martin Bresnick has a piece on the disc, "Ishi's Song" and it has an amazing backstory. Untranslatable yet translatable in the sense of being able to be performed, how were you able to perform this piece (which is up for listen on SoundCloud) and give it the same kind of mysticism as the story? Is it difficult to find a way to channel the proper energy and discipline required of a piece like this?

LM: Ishi's song has a beautiful arc. It's about the last of the tribe, the last one to survive, the last person to speak a language. Ishi was the last of the Yahi Native American tribe. Martin Bresnick heard the "The Maidu Doctors Song" sung by Ishi himself on a recording at Cal Berkeley. No-one knows what the words of this song mean because Ishi and his language are both gone, extinct.

Using the pentatonic scale and the tune's 3 notes, Martin beguiles and entices the listener in and along, creating a gentle lilt and an open and inviting palette. The piece winds through gradual changes as the melody continues - reaching a peak and eventually moving upwards before opening up the whole range of piano - adding the bass, deep and rich and tender, until the pulsing stops - a heart monitor running out perhaps.

Also, Ishi means "man" and also, in Japanese, "rock" - which fits in nicely with the theme of place and people.

CL: The album seems to be heavy in John Luther Adams material. Is there any particular reason for that?

LM: The amazing composer and my friend David Lang helped to curate this album - we wanted to release the complete (so far) piano works of John Luther Adams - and also the complete piano works (2) of Julia Wolfe. That's part of the cd content at play here. Mr. Adams has 3 works, so yes, there's more of him and it shows the range of his music from "Tukiliit", to "Among Red Mountains" (partly about landscape but also about a Frank Stella mural in Seattle airport and the movement of geometric patterns) and then "Nunataks" (glacial islands - land in the middle of glaciers). John creates music that seems to transform landscape into sound. He has a unique unparalleled monolithic style. He sculpts sound, explodes resonance and expands time.

CL: I spoke with Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir recently about a New York premiere of her work "Streaming Arhythmia." She, too, has been labeled as sort of using these elemental characteristics in nature and in the human experience to inspire her creativity and her music. The New York Times called you a "natural, compelling storyteller," so how does your performance touch on these elements of being human, embodying the similar effect of the "human experience?" How do you think your performances enable you to tell a story? Does this disc touch on these ideas?

LM: Thank you! Every day I try to go back to the fundamental and elemental. Back to basics. Not just in practicing piano but also to what brought me/us here today, where we are, while looking back at what's been. I try, usually impossibly, to grasp the whole thing. But there are momentary glimpses. When it comes to playing a composer's music I imagine I'm writing it. I think of the composer writing, imagining something out of nothing, sensing the organic growth of the music. I often have a kind of story in my mind when shaping a piece, a journey. I imagine places, an older world, how things were, like, perhaps when we were one with nature. Possibly that helps people to find their own stories in my performances. Music is understood in a mysterious part of the brain. It makes us nostalgic and romantic, sad and elated. I don't like to get in the way of that by exerting some kind of false narrative of strong personality.

CL: Lastly, you have 8 pervious solo discs, 30 collaborative discs, you've worked with some of the world's greatest composers and players (one of them being yourself, of course). Cantaloupe Music wrote on its website about your new music, "By turns meditative, mysterious, tumultuous and tender The Stone People presents Lisa Moore at the height of her transformative powers." How did you transform yourself to create this disc? Musicians, artists, actors, painters, the lot of them transform per piece, era, etc as part of their artistic process. Have you transformed in some way with this music?

LM: I hope so. This music is larger than us, it's bigger than one life, even larger than many lives put together - it has elements of atmosphere beyond, of the enormity of nature as well as the collective passion of people around us. Julia Wolfe's "Compassion" is about the day of 9/11 as she was living very nearby Ground Zero. The wild mess that created, the dust, the screaming, the silence - it's all there in her piece. Then there's the quiet, giant mountain peaks of the northwest - they're bigger than us. I try to get out of myself every day, to think of larger things, to move beyond the prosaic and the mundane and the awful stuff that just makes noise in our heads. "The Stone People", I hope, will help others to do this. If people come to hear my concert on Tuesday at (le) poisson rouge they should close their eyes and let it swirl over, around and across them. This is the only time I'll be playing all these pieces together - it's going to be a one-off kind of epic moment.

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TagsLisa Moore, Le Poisson Rouge, The Stone People, Cantaloupe Music, Bang On A Can All-Stars, EXCLUSIVE, Classicalite Q&A