Camila Streuly and the Mikroetudes

A few years ago I invited a number of composers to make new pieces for bitKlavier, with the loose model of Bartók’s Mikrokosmos as a starting point; the Mikroetudes turned into a delightful collection of widely varying pieces, and have served as a natural introduction to the instrument. Camila Streuly, a student of Cristina Altamura‘s, has proven an adept and natural performer with bitKlavier, and kindly recorded two of the Mikroetudes to share here. Here is what she has to say about the process and experience:

When I first started working with bitKlavier three years ago, I found it challenging, but it exposed me to an entirely novel way to think about the piano, which was refreshing. It differed from what I was used to: acoustic instruments where I was the main independent variable. To me, one of bitKlavier’s most intriguing aspects is its animateness. It is almost its own entity that you also must respond to while playing. This interactiveness obligates the player to be exceedingly attentive to their touch. Being precise and strictly following notations is fundamental, particularly because each composition is accompanied by its own programming and set of effects. For that same reason, I have found that bitKlavier has helped improve my technique significantly. The first two pieces I took on, Daily Decrease and Keep It Steady (Or Not), brought their respective challenges.

Daily Decrease by Andrea Mazzariello has a nostalgic and synchronic effect. Consequently, I had to work on clean releases and being mindful of note duration as they directly affect the performance’s sound and accuracy. This composition can be rhythmically challenging as well due to its syncopated melody. However, the set metronome on the synchronic effect is helpful for keeping in time. The piece’s dynamic changes are quite gradual therefore demanding a steady oversight from the player.

In Dan Trueman’s Keep It Steady (Or Not), one of the most prominent features is its adaptive tempo which triggers a changing metronome based on your own pace. Although the player is given the option to not “keep it steady,” I have found that this piece requires one to have a great internal metronome–notably during measures nine and ten. This polyrhythmic section requires the player to count a four on three cross-rhythm and then the opposite! For these two measures, I became more familiar with the feeling of this polyrhythm in order to be able to count my way through it.

About Daily Decrease, Andrea Mazzariello writes:

I heard the Mikroetudes one summer, as they were being released into the wild, and was quite affected by what seemed to me to be a really smart and, more importantly, really expressive intervention into performance physiology, into the body/ear relationship and the retraining of that relationship.

When Dan asked me to contribute a smaller study to a growing repertoire for bitKlavier, I jumped at the chance. It seemed especially important to begin with fingers on keys, which I did, but I also loved the ways that I could play bitKlavier with my notation program and listen, joyfully, to the notes on the page and to what became of what they were “supposed” to sound like, enlivened and sometimes mulched in the bK engine.

The title comes from my high school study of Bruce Lee (!) and some of his wonderful aphorisms, among them: “not daily increase but daily decrease. hack away the inessential!” I thought of bitKlavier in this way; because of its richness and dynamism, I found that part of my responsibility as a composer was to get out of its way.

Thanks Camila for your work on these pieces and your terrific performances!