White Lies for Lomax - Piano Version
for Solo Piano
Approximate Duration: 7'
YouTube Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUtMM2FPZYM
It is still a surprise to discover how few classical musicians are familiar with Alan Lomax, the ethnomusicologist who ventured into the American South (and elsewhere) to record the soul of a land. Those scratchy recordings captured everyone from Muddy Waters to a whole slew of anonymous blues musicians.
White Lies for Lomax dreams up wisps of distant blues fragments - more fiction than fact, since they are hardly honest recreations of the blues - and lets them slowly accumulate to an assertive climax. This short but dense homage ends with the sounds of a Lomax field recording floating in from an off-stage radio, briefly crossing paths with the cloud-like remnants of the work's opening. The seemingly recent phenomenon of sampling - grabbing a sound-bite from a song and incorporating it into something new - is in fact a high-tech version of the very old practice of allusion or parody, and the inclusion of a field recording of early blues musicians at the end is a nod to that tradition.
In the final minute of this work, an optional off-stage boombox can be used to play the included CD (a field recording of early blues musicians). At the indicated moment (measure 103), the conductor simply nods to a percussionist in the wings of the concert hall who begins the CD. No special equipment is necessary, though it is preferable that the playback device be a small portable system offstage rather than house speakers. If it is not possible to secure a boombox, this component of the work can be left out. It makes for a magical final minute, but it is not absolutely necessary.