Music for the Park is a tightly-woven collection of music inspired by public parks and recreational music. Though we tend to take them for granted now, public parks only became a concern of urban planners in the 19th century—when cities were becoming dirtier and more crowded and natural environments becoming less accessible to the majority of people. Parks were also a product of early socialist ideology, which understand that access for all to quiet, peaceful, natural landscapes would contribute to a more productive society because it would provide much-needed rejuvenation for the working class. Around the same time, recreational music-making—particularly involving the piano—was gaining popularity. Pianos were becoming less expensive and music fit for amateurs was more widely printed and much less expensive than it had been in previous eras. The attitude to music was much the same as that towards parks. Music was seen as an escape from the dirt and grime of daily life and as a way of refreshing oneself for the time ahead.
Music for the Park takes inspiration from both concepts—of public parks and recreational music—to create a piece that can be played by pianists of many different levels of ability. It is a piece that can be played slowly or quickly, virtuosically or simply, and still give pleasure to the listener and the performer (who may often be the same person). The piece is constructed from samples of music by myself and others that was all, in original form, intended to be played by beginning pianists and to be simple and enjoyable rather than complex and intellectual. The discrete excerpts are placed around each other as small patches of a quilt arranged at random. Listening to this piece may be similar the experience of sitting near a piano placed in a park, on which any manner of music will be played by every kind of pianist – the beginning of one piece, a short improvisation, a few stray notes by a beginner, and a set of flying runs by the occasional virtuoso who passes by and sits down for a minute, then another short improvisation, and few more notes from another beginner.
This piece was premiered at Make Music Chicago 2017 as a part of their program Pianos in the Parks, which placed seven pianos in seven parks across Chicago from June 21 to August 1. Several unique versions of the piece, which in themselves could be played in many different ways, were included with each piano for anyone to play. For more information on Make Music Chicago, please visit makemusicchicago.org/pianos-in-the-parks
Recorded in June 2017 by Kuang-Hao Huang at McKinley Park in Chicago, IL.