toy piano and metal pipes; for one player - who may be either a toy pianist or a percussionist
commissioned for recording by Margaret Leng Tan
miracle ear was written for Margaret Leng Tan and is dedicated to my father, Daniel Lang, in honor of his seventieth birthday.
miracle ear is the name of a brand of hearing aid that advertises on late-night TV.
I wanted to write a piece that was an appropriate gift for my father – something about the passage of time but not too morbid. Then I remembered a discussion I had had with him about hearing aids. My father now wears hearing aids in both ears and apparently they can create as many listening problems as they solve. In particular, hearing aids may not make listening to music any easier because they tend to boost the background noises and sounds associated with making music – breathing, attack, room noise, etc. – more than the music itself. Through the hearing aid, notes that were too soft to hear unaided become drowned out by all the other louder noises. In miracle ear, gentle and subtle rhythms in the toy piano are accompanied by the sharp attacks of metal pipes. This makes the music very difficult to hear.
In 2011, I heard a performance of this piece by the percussionist Matt Evans, in which he cleverly played the united melody notes and percussion strokes with the same hand. Since then, I am no longer sure if this is really a piece for a toy pianist playing percussion or a piece for a percussionist playing a toy piano.
note: I have written the metal pipe part with actual pitches in order to make it possible for the performer to practice on a single keyboard, without the pipes. The pitches themselves are suggestions which need not be observed in performance.
miracle ear should last a bit more than three minutes.