Vermilion (1992) was originally a song for two voices, two prepared pianos and household-object percussion, part of a set titled “Four Home Dubs” from my early 4-track cassette efforts. This instrumental presents the two prepared pianos on their own, digitized from the original master cassette 20 years later. The recording was made during a stay at my childhood home, where I took the liberty of experimenting with preparing our aging family piano, and slightly altering the tuning of certain notes in a gesture towards just intonation.
The music was inspired by Ghanaian drumming and Steve Reich, especially the incorporation of the former in the music of the latter. In the first half of the piece there is an echo of Reich’s Counterpoint series of pieces, in the way the canonic patterns combine to emphasize a 12/8 beat (though that could easily be said to be an echo of West African music). Each piano plays a repeating line in canon with itself, resulting in a busy four-part texture with a clangorous effect. In the second half, the two pianos are jamming, with piano one playing the bassline and piano two, a six-note melody and a high solo.
No notation was used at any point, and the parts were played from memory and/or improvised. Both pianos were recorded in a single take each, without software or electronics.
Composed and recorded July 1992
4-track cassette elements digitized 2012
Photo: Mark Russell
Lake Nipissing, Callander, Ontario, October 1992
Music and composer’s notes copyright Bruce A. Russell 2022