Gordon Mumma (b. 1935) is best known for his pioneering role in the development and evolution of electronic and live-electronic music. The piano has played a significant if underestimated role in his career. With a few notable exceptions, this collection by pianist Daan Vandewalle marks the first commercial recordings of Mumma’s music for solo piano composed over more than forty years. It provides an important new perspective on his work as a composer.
The spare textures, irregular rhythms, and pungent dissonances of Bartók’s Mikrokosmos echo in Mumma’s piano music. The keyboard music of Bach and Haydn, of Schoenberg, Webern, Ives, Ernst Krenek, Carl Ruggles, and Ruth Crawford also shaped his early piano ideal, as did the experience of superb recitalists in Detroit and Ann Arbor, including Walter Gieseking, Dame Myra Hess, and Glenn Gould. The works of the early 1960s were written for the concert hall, but much of the later piano music is more personal—the solitary dreams of a long musical life. And like dreams it filters memories—of music of the distant and recent past, of artistic friendships and loved ones living or dead—to create a uniquely contemporary approach to the piano. In contrast to Mumma’s epic electronic works, his keyboard music is predominantly poetic in its brevity, concentration, and psychological depth. It is music of high specific gravity, each piece a microcosm of finely etched ideas that unfold without literal repetition. For Daan Vandewalle, it is also “music of dialogue” that communicates—both with the listener and within itself—through its deep concern with sound, phrasing, color, dynamic range, and rhetorical nuance.