Alvin Curran (performed by Reinier van Houdt) - Inner Cities No.9 /Dead Beats
American composer Alvin Curran was co-founder of the legendary live electronics group Musica Elettronice Viva. Since 1996, Curran has worked on Inner Cities, a momentous and growing series of solo piano pieces that together form one of the longest non-repetitive piano pieces ever written. Curran dedicated one of its most emotionally resonant moments, the moving 9th part, to Reinier van Houdt. The piece, as Curran explains, is the first of his compositions after 9-11 and, although not a political statement in any overt way, it does reflect on the relationship between the arts and life.
“Dead Beats” is a different story; with its emphasis on rhythm, the underlying idea is that disparate parts can combine into a unified whole and that the beginning of a performance does not hold any indication about the end. While writing, Curran was never once sure where to start, never once clear about how to proceed, and there was never a true sense of flow, as the music was scored in intermittent bouts of inspiration over a period of several months. If, while listening to “Dead Beats” you find yourself lost, wondering where the music was just a few minutes ago, then you’re pretty much in the same spot as the composer.
For Curran, Reinier was an obvious choice, a pianist “who will certainly make each note sound like the history of time.” And of course, they share their love of the piano. Van Houdt came to the instrument later, and his first interests were not jazz, grooves and improvisation, but contact mics, cheap recording devices and “unpredictable sounds” culled from a wild assortment of objects. Whereas Curran’s roots were in tonality and romanticism, van Houdt’s were in dissonance and sound art: When auditioning at The Hague’s Royal Conservatory, his program consisted entirely of 20th century composers, from Cage to Messiaen.