Stress Position: The Complete Piano Works of Drew Baker
New Focus Recordings presents Stress Position, the first recording to feature the works of Drew Baker as performed by renowned pianist Marilyn Nonken.
Release Date: October 24, 2011
Ira Byelick, American Record Guide
"Highly conceptual, viscerally physical...politically charged"
-Christian Carey, Sequenza21
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 etherial, "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.
Stress Position is available in CD format as well as digital download. Both include Jennifer Boyd's striking cover art and extensive liner notes written by the composer.
"an engrossing meditation on the sustain, overlap and decay of isolated pitches." - The Chicago Tribune on Drew Baker's Gray for solo piano - featured on Stress Position
"a determined protector of important music" - The New York Times on pianist Marilyn Nonken
Stress Position Reviews
Marilyn Nonken is one of the most celebrated champions of the modern repertoire of her generation, known for performances that explore transcendent virtuosity and extremes of musical expression. Upon her 1993 New York debut, she was heralded as “a determined protector of important music” (New York Times). Today, she is recognized as “one of the greatest interpreters of new music” (American Record Guide).
Drew Baker is a Chicago-based composer and pianist. He writes primarily for acoustic instrumentations and has collaborated with a number of renowned ensembles and performers including Chicago Chamber Musicians, Ensemble 21, Ensemble Dal Niente, The Group for Contemporary Music, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Talea Ensemble and pianists Marilyn Nonken and Amy Briggs.