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American Vernacular: New Music for Solo Piano

by Nicholas Phillips

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Pianist Nicholas Phillips, called "an able and persuasive advocate" of new music (New York Times), releases a recording documenting his ambitious commissioning project, American Vernacular, featuring ten world premiere recordings by composers ranging from David Rakowski to Mohammed Fairouz. It is a fascinating collection that reveals how different creative artists understand the popular lineage of American music and asks poignant rhetorical questions about the foundations of America's musical heritage. The new pieces reference influences from richly diverse sources including John Fahey, Billy Joel, Langston Hughes, Miles Davis, Alberto Ginastera, and hip hop legends De La Soul. Stylistically, the works range from Rakowski's deconstructive modernist approach to vernacular motives, Ethan Wickman's homage to frontier Americana from the 19th century, William Price's engagement with questions of what it means to be "Southern", and Mohammed Fairouz's grappling with a vernacular from the point of view of an artist of color. American Vernacular is also a showcase for Phillips' "razor-sharp yet wonderfully spirited" (American Record Guide) performances, and combined with his commitment to curating this collection of new piano repertoire, this recording is an important and valuable addition to the existing discography of contemporary American piano music.

Nicholas Phillips maintains an active schedule as a soloist, having played in venues across the United States and abroad. His previous albums, Portals and Passages and Boris Papandopulo: Piano Music both garnered critical acclaim, with his playing described as filled with “bejeweled accuracy” (Fanfare). His passion for working with composers and engaging audiences through new music led to the conception of this American Vernacular album. Phillips is currently Associate Professor of Piano at the University of Wisconsin

– Eau Claire.


released January 28, 2014




New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

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