Denman Maroney – Double Zero
(Porter Records PR4063. CD Review by Geoff Winston)
Denman Maroney is a New York-based pianist and composer who deals in complexities and subterfuges. He subverts the piano with a range of techniques and physical interventions that he terms ‘Hyperpiano’, evolved after a formal musical education which brought him into contact with Bill Dixon, Jimmy Garrison and Morton Subotnick, amongst others.
This solo concert performance, comprising the uninterrupted nine movements of Double Zero, took place in 2008 at New York’s cutting edge music venue, Roulette, temporarily located in SoHo, prior to its recent move to the refurbished Memorial Hall in Brooklyn, and was, incidentally, Maroney’s ninth appearance at Roulette since 1982.
The pristine mix captures all the nuances and ambiguities of Maroney’s performance and, apart from the applause at its conclusion, there is no hint of the audience’s presence. Maroney utilises a range of implements applied to the strings and innards of the piano to create a lush mesh of sonorous suggestions, intermittently in unison with conventional keyboard technique.
Maroney’s masterly control of the interaction of copper, steel, ceramic and plastic tools with the piano wires evokes the lightly metallic and the lyrically atmospheric. The complex temporal layering that he enacts singlehandedly – in the manner of Nancarrow’s player-piano pieces – is a stunning achievement.
Interviewed at The Stone, he referred to this aspect of his composition: “There is a score, all this music is quite precisely notated, actually … [there] are usually several layers of time, which is common to almost all the music I write, and that just reflects my view that that’s the way life is!”
The richness of the layering contributes to the impression that the uninitiated listener might have, that Maroney has a small ensemble at his disposal, with a vigorous slide guitarist, an extreme string section, and a light percussionist as well as the pianist, all working in unison. The colours and moods of Double Zero indirectly suggests the stratospheric, the steelyard, the power station and electronic transmission wires, along with damped rhythms, chimes, creaks and whines that elude definition. That they are all orchestrated and performed by Maroney alone in this rigorously constructed imaginative voyage, is a major achievement which Porter and the Roulette have succeeded in committing to CD with exemplary dedication.