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Drew Baker: Stress Position

by Marilyn Nonken

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Hailed by the American Record Guide as "one of the greatest interpreters of new music," pianist Marilyn Nonken releases Stress Position, an intense, politically-charged collection of works by up-and-coming composer Drew Baker.

Stress Position is the first recording to feature the works of Drew Baker. Baker's compositions have been presented by many leading new music groups including The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Talea Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, The Group for Contemporary Music, Chicago Chamber Musicians and Ensemble 21. This recording represents the culmination of an artistic partnership between Baker and Nonken that dates back to 2004. Since that time, Nonken, Director of Piano Studies at New York University's Steinhardt School, has performed the works on this disc at festivals and concert series throughout the world including Works & Process at The Guggenheim Museum, Musica Nova Helsinki, Music Harvest Festival in Denmark, Pittsburgh's Music on the Edge, Philadelphia's CHAMBER MUSIC NOW! and the Festival of New American Music in Sacramento.

The title track refers to a form of torture brought back into the public consciousness following the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. With both arms extended to the extreme ends of the piano, the performer must execute unceasing repeated figures that grow louder and denser over the course of the harrowing 9- minute work. Upon hearing Marilyn Nonken's premiere of Stress Position, poet Laura Mullen referred to it as "One of the most effective pieces of overtly political art I’ve experienced, the piece is also just drop dead gorgeous." Baker's reaction to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can also be heard on the album's fourth track, National Anthem, in which The Star Spangled Banner is recast into a haunting, dirge-like setting that renders the tune nearly unrecognizable. In addition to addressing political topics, Baker's piano works continually challenge preconceived notions of the instrument itself. From the ethereal, "electronic" sounds of the opening track, Gaeta for two pianos and water percussion, to the shotgun blast chords of Asa Nisi Masa for solo amplified piano, Nonken's stunning performances are a testament to the the piano's myriad identities.


released January 23, 2012




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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