Lyle Mays: Solo Improvisations for Expanded Piano
Posted by: fred simon on 02 September 2000
What has really delighted me is Lyle's concept of orchestration: there are no overt references to conventional orchestral instruments -- all sounds are organically tied to the sound of the piano (in fact, the very notes of the orchestration are entirely derived from the notes of his original improvisations). All synth sounds and the processed sampled "prepared" piano sounds (not in the sense of John Cage's prepared piano, but sometimes referring to Henry Cowell's string scrapes and reverberant clouds) seem to emanate from the initial piano performance. Often the synth sounds are extensions of the sustained piano notes, functioning as "pitched reverb." To be sure, this is territory Lyle has been exploring for years, but represents a pinnacle of accomplishment.
Of course, none of this sonic palette would mean much if the initial piano performances weren't so magnificent. These are truly improvised compositions, with all the organic and cohesive formal integrity that good composition should have, and with deep melodic and harmonic inspiration.
Listening again last night it occurred to me that the title Solo can be taken two ways: obviously it was all done by one person, it's a solo performance, but also in that the resultant composite sound really is a singular voice, one instrument: the "expanded" piano.
This is such an apt description, because the synths/samples do not comprise a second discreet voice playing material other than what was played on the original piano track -- all counterlines, inner voices, etc. are born of the original piano performance -- and these sounds realize the implications of the sonic possibilities of that performance like sunlight glinting on water or the play of the aurora borealis. The piano has been expanded.
I hope people realize the depth and significance of Lyle's achievement, because I really think it's monumental. Lyle is such an essential element of the Pat Metheny Group world; in fact, there would be no PMG as we know it without Lyle.
This is Lyle's world, and it's profound.
[This message was edited by fred simon on SUNDAY 03 September 2000 at 06:17.]