The Seven Stars

 

Program Note

The Seven Stars is based on the idea that humans who see the same patterns of stars mythologize them in different ways. The constellation we view in the United States as the Big Dipper (part of Ursa Major), has been interpreted differently by a variety of cultures, including as a bear, seven sages, seven brothers, a great wagon, and a coffin followed by mourners.

 

The Seven Stars is inspired by George Crumb’s set of solo piano pieces Makrokosmos, evoking a sense of timelessness by exploring the multi-faceted resonant sound world of the prepared piano. The piece consists of seven movements, each based on a star in the Big Dipper. The Seven Stars is structured around patterns derived from the number seven, including groups of 7, 4+3, and 5+2. The musical intensity of each movement is based on that star’s apparent magnitude. Movements based on the brightest stars, including I. Ak (Dubhe), V. Alioth, and VII. Alkaid, are louder and more rhythmically intense. Quieter movements with less rhythmic activity include II. Merak, III. Phecda, and IV. Megrez. Mizar/Alcor (VI) are binary stars, and this movement reflects the brighter Mizar, followed by a fainter echo (Alcor).

 

The piano is prepared using nylon bolts and brass bolts with washers, and features both traditional playing and extended techniques using mallets, ping pong balls, Superballs, and glass marbles. These preparations enhance the piano’s percussive and resonant qualities, and close microphone placement enables the listener to hear all of the detailed and complex sounds.

 
The Seven Stars was written for Aurie Hsu, and is recorded on the album Mythical Spaces, which was released by Ravello Records in 2018.

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