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Kelly Moran Plays 'Limonium,' A Propulsive, Glass-Fragile Piece For Prepared Piano


A still from Kelly Moran's "Limonium" video.
A still from Kelly Moran's "Limonium" video.

There is metal between those strings. In a video for "Limonium," Brooklyn-based composer Kelly Moran interrupts the stretched piano wire with corkscrews, forking the paths of sound.

"Prepared piano" has been a compositional technique employed by many, from John Cage on down to modern musicians like Hauschka and Nils Frahm, which allows them to explore new timbres using marbles, clothesline pins, forks — anything that can be jammed between the instrument's internal strings. Moran, a multi-instrumentalist who plays in bands like Weasel Walter's Cellular Chaos and experimental rock ensemble Voice Coils, approaches the altered instrument like Aphex Twin, breaking down the technique's additions into strange, frenetically melodic patterns.

A little surprisingly, given the fragile beauty of "Limonium," Moran cites the subgenre of black metal as an underappreciated innovation in modern composition. "The steady pulse, adherence to tonality, and overlapping patterns ... I truly think if you orchestrated a band like Mgla for piano, it would sound a lot like Steve Reich," she told Nine Circles in December. It also doesn't hurt Moran's metal bona fides that her new album, Bloodroot, was mastered by Colin Marston (Krallice, Dysrhythmia, Gorguts).

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"Limonium" appears on Bloodroot, which tinkers with subtle electronic manipulation, but this video is a live performance, with cascading clinks of corkscrews giving sharp percussive radiance to a serene frenzy.

Bloodroot comes out March 24 on Telegraph Harp.

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