Hidden Zen

Solo Piano

Written between March and August, 2015 in Murphysboro, Illinois.
Commissioned by Kathleen Supove.
Duration: approx. 12-14 minutes.
 Premiered By Kathleen Supove at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York in the spring of 2017.
I’ve known Kathy Supove for about a decade now, but before we met over social media (back in the days of My Space!)I was a great admirer of her piano playing and musicianship. After years of chomping at the bit, I jumped at the chance to write her a piece in 2015. Kathy is a musician of amazing virtuosic facility who can play seemingly anything, something many composers have exploited in writing for her. After seeing her play in Washington, D.C. one evening, I decided that I would write her a piece that would give her very little to do, and out of that desire, Hidden Zen was born. The term Hidden Zen refers primarily to a tradition of Japanese gardening, although I don’t know enough about it to write a piece of music on the subject. I was struck, rather, by the ideas raised by those words, “hidden zen”: the notion that something peaceful, still, transcendent could be hidden within some other context. This brought to mind a particularly modern contradiction: it seems to me that the increasing bustle of modern life goes hand in hand with an increase desire, even need, for spiritual experience and stillness (an idea that is becoming recurrent in my work of late, as in my personal life).
Hidden Zen, like the spiritual practice from which it draws its name, is deceptively complex in construction while remaining relatively simple in execution. It consists of a series of “overlapping passacaglias,” as it were, where progressions of decreasing numbers of chords interrupt and overlap each other until only one (ultimately split into two sonorities, in the final variation) remains. The piece also becomes progressively quicker, until it gives way to an utterly simple still music, lacking in rhythmic or harmonic complexity and, instead, luxuriating in the sonorities of itself.

Hidden Zen was written during the spring and summer of 2015 in Carbondale and Murphysboro, Illinois. It is dedicated to Kathleen Supove.