By Vanessa Ague August 30, 2021
On the second floor of Fayetteville, West Virginia Secret sandwich society restaurant, in a concert hall and art space known as the grove, Miki Sawada movements performed by Brendon Randall-Myers A kind of mirror while speaking to a member of the public about their life in a rural state. The concert was one of Sawada’s 13 stops Gather hear the visit in the fall of 2018. The room she was playing in – a wood-paneled space over 100 years old decorated with an array of vintage upholstery and string lights – was full. Around 50 or 60 people of all ages were in attendance, including composer Randall-Myers, and chairs had to be brought from the restaurant for everyone to sit. As the program progressed, different members of the audience sat across from Sawada, taking turns performing rituals with her. One tea made to share with the audience, another read a spooky story about the local legend moth man, and in the end, everyone was pop bubble wrap together until the room goes quiet.
“It was a fantastic experience,” says Lewis Rhinehart, founder of The Grove. “It was kind of like a feather in The Grove’s hat, because it was something really diverse and it really brought the community together.” This is exactly the kind of experience Sawada hoped to create when she envisioned the show with director and actor Daniel Pettrow: something that would feel like sitting around a campfire, giving the members from the audience a voice in his performance. Her goal was to bring audiences to a concert of classical music that eschewed stoicism and coldness, which is why she was traveling with her piano in a van across the United States – to change the established paradigm of the genre of separation between the audience and the musician.
After the gig was over, Sawada and Randall-Myers returned to Rhinehart’s, staying up all night and celebrating the joy of the day. In a DIY fashion, Sawada slept on local sofas after each show, immersing herself in the culture of the places she visited. She even remembers spending time on a farm, picking chickens, planting garlic, and having in-depth conversations about why the farm owner loved West Virginia. “The heart of the project is to get people to open up and have a real bond with me because I am there to give the gift of music, instead of taking something from them or enjoying it”, explains Sawada.
Now a full version of A kind of mirror, with five movements, receives new life as an album that captures the transportable nature of music and extends its reach beyond the concert hall. The album flows smoothly between different atmospheres which are driven by changes in the tone of the piano: the lush star-eyed “Shadow” ventures towards the more dissonant and sparse “Echo” and the hammering and virtuoso “Cascade”, creating a trance that is always in motion. Floating electronic elements swirl around the piano melodies to form interlocking patterns, creating a physical and emotional sensation to ultimately make the listener feel like a part of something bigger than themselves.
Sawada and Randall-Myers first met as students at the Yale School of Music in the early 2010s, performing together once or twice but never collaborating closely. Sawada first thought about ordering a new work by Randall-Myers to bring with her on tour because he is from West Virginia and would love to come on tour with her. By bringing Randall-Myers with them, the two were fortunate enough to get into the “heart of the matter” of the state. The play and the live show then felt more like an experience the two could have together, related to the time they spent bonding in West Virginia. To write the piece, Randall-Myers asked Sawada to create a mixtape of what she was listening to at the time and the pieces she enjoyed performing, which he then noted on the music to match. . He composed the first movement, “Shadow” and the last movement, “Cascade”, in 2018, and completed the middle three movements in 2019.
This music was new territory for Randall-Myers, whose work often uses racy electric guitars that merge his playing experiences into an experimental rock band. Marateck, leading the relentless no-wave group The Glenn Branca Ensemble, swinging in mosh pits and studying minimalist composition. A kind of mirror channels Randall-Myers’ interests in creating a transcendent state from short repetitive phrases that weave into new instrumentation. “I was looking for a way to create music that is intense and cathartic but not aggressive, and I think that ultimately happened in this music. And part of how I personally found my way was just thinking about stamina… and Miki’s personality and how she interfaces with the instrument, ”says Randall-Myers.
Randall-Myers and Sawada are both long distance runners and this shared passion for athletic endurance unfolds through the music of A kind of mirror, which alternates frantic races and celestial meditations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sawada has run everyday for 139 days and she has run ultra-marathons for the past two years, and Randall-Myers has run long distance since high school. “Endurance is a big part of my music practice in general, in part because I had these experiences with running, and at one point I linked that to my own music practice via punk and metal and how physical those things are, ”Randall- says Myers.
Sawada learned A kind of mirror one step at a time, memorizing how short sentences and patterns felt under his fingers. “I mainly run on trails, in which you have to be careful with every step, otherwise you will fall on your face. It’s kind of like playing Brendon’s music, because it’s constantly changing in a very delicate way, ”says Sawada. While working on a cruise ship, she would run off at the piano after everyone had gone to bed to practice. It was music she had to sleep on – not something she could cram into one day, but something that she devoted a little time to playing each day until her rhythmic repetitions became instinctive. .
Writing A kind of mirror for a tour of West Virginia, and performing the piece for the first time there, remains a special memory for Sawada and Randall-Myers. Randall-Myers to discover new parts of West Virginia and find his place in a state where he never felt out of place. With A kind of mirror Now a recording, the two hope to reach a larger audience than those who have heard the music in person. The live elements are gone, but listening instead becomes an opportunity to sit down with the sound and allow it to overwhelm you. Randall-Myers writes music that can induce a trance state, whether heard in a concert hall or in your living room.
“I like the idea of writing something that you can just grab immediately and very clearly and feel rather than having to think about it,” says Randall-Myers. “I want to feel something emotionally, I want to feel something physically, and these are the things that I try to create for other people.”