Blueprints for Solo Piano
“Daring...A 45-minute suite of overwhelming textural richness, rhythmic freedom and sonic grandeur...the most immersive and beautiful new piano music I’d heard in years...no piano lover should miss it.” –Seattle Times of GraceANN Cummings' premiere (2021)
Although Garrett Fisher’s BLUEPRINTS FOR SOLO PIANO may appear to resemble classical works, their innovative process and product introduce a unique method of compositional structure to the world of music.
Throughout his composing career, Fisher has studied and combined elements from multiple global musical traditions to create a signature style that offers a new lens for mythical and historical material. Rather than determine every last note in isolation, Garrett has a highly collaborative process, often eliciting input from producing team members, and even performers, early on in each creative process. In his opera-theatre works, Fisher incorporates “blueprints” – improvisatory frameworks for performers to elaborate upon – as a way to advance narrative aspects that highlight each musician’s unique interpretation. Inspired by the Indian raga, this compositional freedom is foreign to most western musicians, and requires great trust and extensive practice. No two performances are ever the same.
Fisher has recently taken his work to a new experimental level, creating a framework for 72 expanding or contracting modes assigned to 12 “seasons” (including early/mid/late) of the year and six times of day, which together offer a comprehensive spectrum of musical moods. Fisher has used 36 of these modes as seeds for the BLUEPRINTS FOR SOLO PIANO. Although he trained as a classical pianist, BOOK 1: WINTER and BOOK 2: SPRING are his first official compositions for the instrument.
Each blueprint is a set of instructions – some concrete (such as modes, motifs, time signatures, lengths of phrases, chordal structures, melodic lines, phrasing, range transformation) and others more poetic and metaphorical. These are meant to ground and inspire the performer’s individual discovery process as they give voice to the score’s latent silence. The blueprints are more similar to the script for a stage play, or rules for a board game, than traditional musical compositions. Neither fully represents the intended creation; both depend on a player’s selection from multiple interpretive possibilities, yet each execution reflects a recognizable essence of the game or play. This entails a different investment from the typical hours of rigorous practice and performative micro-choices for the notes and dynamics on the page. It is a deeply creative and generative process dependent on the performer’s own interpretation.
At a recent rehearsal Fisher answered a collaborator’s question with: “I don’t know. But the score has a hunch.” In other words: the blueprint is only half the work. Its essence is made recognizable through the performer’s unique realization and performance.
Ken Cerniglia is a veteran music-theatre dramaturg and longtime collaborator of Garrett Fisher.