THE INNER UNIVERSE for piano, recorded sounds, and (optional) electron-microscope slides, 1983
Duration: 40:00 for whole set of five independent pieces, two short interludes and an encore
Performance practicality: Medium pianistic ability. Music exploits new notations and many on-string preparations, all carefully and fully explained in the Introduction. Stopwatch or equivalent is needed, and CD player or computer, which could be operated by the pianist, page-turner, or assistant. Score is meticulously clear and easy-to-read. Photos of electron microscope images, now available on the computer, can be displayed on a screen near the pianist while the piece of the same name is being played. These are black-and-white, super-clear images that take on an almost abstract quality with their intriguing designs.
THE INNER UNIVERSE is a set of five pieces for piano and recorded sounds (mainly piano) and three short works which are piano only (with on-string preparations) and are shorter in duration. Priscilla McLean, steeped at the time in the new world of electronic music, visualized a surreal piano universe, with live performer, on-string preparations at times, and recorded piano which is altered by special effects, such as echo, delay, pitch sliding and shifting. The on-string preparations bridge the gap between straight on-keys playing and the altered piano on the recording. As she was conceptualizing the music, McLean came across the book “Magnifications” by David Scharf, which contains electron microscope slides of plants, insects, and minerals. The stark black-and-white images evoked a blizzard of musical ideas in McLean, and she contacted David Scharf for permission to use his photos as inspiration for the pieces. He was extremely enthusiastic, and sent her the actual slides to work with after she had bought the book and picked out the photos. On Nov.11,1982 during a McLean Mix west coast tour, Priscilla McLean performed four of the five major pieces at the University of California, Dominguez Hills, with David Scharf in the audience. He was overjoyed and thrilled to see/hear this music, which he said matched a vision of his dream of the music.
In May of 1979, Priscilla and Barton McLean went to The MacDowell Colony for six weeks of composing, each with their own studio. Hers was Kirby Cabin (where mentor Lucas Foss had stayed), and she recorded the tape part on its excellent Steinway grand piano and wrote out the live performance, which included bouncing a superball on the strings. Completing the first piece, “Landscape of a Coleus”, she gave a performance for the Colony. More information about THE INNER UNIVERSE can be found in McLean’s autobiography HANGING OFF THE EDGE, iUniverse, 2006. THE INNER UNIVERSE’s premiere, with Priscilla McLean as pianist, was given in April, 1981 at the Antwerp BRT Radio, Belgium during a McLean Mix European concert tour. The McLeans toured with their own piano and tape pieces in Europe and the U.S. in over 50 concerts until 1986. THE INNER UNIVERSE is available on Capstone Records CPS-8637 CD (now Parma/Ravello Records (Naxos)) and published by the composers’ MLC Publications.
The five main sections with complete scores to follow along
1. LANDSCAPE OF A COLEUS
2. SWEET ALYSSUM:VICTORIA SPRING
4. FLOWER POWER
5. SALT CANYONS
Photo images by David Scharf