When you play Music From Wei by the Canadian composer Nick Storring, you will immediately have the feeling that you are listening to a chamber orchestra. But this will be a mistake! All the sounds, all the timbres, all the textures, all the melodies, all the colours of this short journey into half-ambient, half-minimalist moors are drawn from a single instrument, the piano.
The story is as follows: Storring was commissioned to write a work to accompany a creation by Toronto choreographer Yvonne Ng. For reasons of economy and efficiency, Storring decided to use a single piano, but in every way imaginable, rather than having to fly a whole bunch of instruments to the site of the creation: Banff, Alberta. As the weeks progressed, Storring found new ways to create disparate sounds that would later need to be combined to create the illusion of a larger ensemble.
Everything from objects of all kinds between the strings (the prepared piano technique), to bows for rubbing, sticks for striking, and even the use of a Disklavier to knead the sound paste.
The result is super-appealing and entirely indebted to the composer because all of these triturations could have been used in an abrasive, cerebral way. But Storring has gone elsewhere. He has created a largely contemplative, neo-impressionist, but quivering soundtrack that works well with more active, repetitive minimalist elements. Also, but more rarely, there are passages where a vaguely hip hop groove reminds us that it’s not 1960, but 2022.
Let yourself be carried away on this (too short) journey and its scintillating landscapes, shrouded in a mostly pensive aura that (almost) concludes with a finale worthy of Glass’ Music in Twelve Parts.