Fanfare - March/April 2006 by Peter Burwasser
"Ever since Debussy first hear a Balinese gamelan at the Paris Exhibition of 1889, Western composers have been fascinated with traditional Asian music, and today more than ever. Pianist an composer Christopher Keyes continues the trend, and demonstrates the natural affinity between Asian musical practices and computer-generated effects. As Keyes explains in his notes, Chinese musicians do not embrace our concept of the composer as a unique, original artist. Traditional Chinese musicians revere their millennia ild repertoire, and any "new" music is in some was an improvisation on preexisting work. In is in this spirit that Keyes has created this exotic, yet familiar material.
Keyes himself does not play any of the traditional material at the piano, but rather relies upon the superb native instrumentalists to add that essential flavor to the music. His piano playing is reflective, a kind of commentary; he defers to the iconic power of an ancient culture. This is especially the case in the heart of the program, the three Li Jiang Etudes. Keyes is more to the forefront of the music in two piano-dominated works, Steel3 x Chrome and Of Wood, Spring and Bamboo, the only work here that does not include any computer enhancement. Both of those works are, as the titles suggest, inspired by the timbral possibilities of different materials, which is a crucial aspect of Asian music. In all of the music, there is never a sense that Keyes is self-consciously creating the electronic music; rather, the computer acts as just another instrument in the composer;s arsenal of tools. His ability to join ancient and contemporary sensibilities is masterful.
In Fanfare 19:1, John Story reviewed a release of music by Sciarrino that included multiple formats in a bulky package, which he thought to be profligate. capstone might also be accused of overkill here, offering both a CD and a DVF. One would expect the DVD to show up perhaps, some of the beautiful traditional instruments being played. Instead, each selection is accompanies by a single shot of a Chinese painting, video wallpaper, in effect. Only the final track, Meditation of the Sea, is matched to actual film, in this case, an appropriately dreamy dance sequence superimposed on images of, yes, the sea. The DVD is recorded in multichannel surround sound, which is as the music is presented in concert. The sound is spectacular, but another solution would have been to record this is multichannel SACD, in hybrid format, sans the pretty, but dispensable video."