Bill LePage: Unprepared Piano

Saint Bernard Chapel
Limbo I
Plasy Monastery 1998

The Unprepared Piano was performed at the first Limbo Festival in Plasy, the Czech Republic, on June 21, 1998, with the composer premiering the work.  The Limbo Festival was organized by Milos Vojtechovsky and presented on the grounds of the Plasy Monastery, a large Cistercian Monastery built in 1144 and later rebuilt as a chateau between 1661 and 1739.  The concert took place on a Saturday afternoon in Saint Bernard's Chapel.

The work is in three parts, with each part made up of very short sections.  Some pieces are only 30 seconds long.  The musical material is more composed than earlier works the composer had written in Prague.  For example, the fourth section of Part One is the same melodic line played by the right hand, sped up and slowed down, and divided into 4 bars/ 3 bars/ 4 bars.  The pattern is repeated a total of five times.  Therefore you have five repetitions of the same melodic line in 4/3/4 bars until the end.

The structure of every piece is slightly asymmetrical.  For example, section 3 in Part Two is 31 bars of 3/4 time plus one beat.  Actually it is 21 bars of 3/4 time, one bar of 7/4, and four bars of 6/4.  The pulse, however, is 3/4 throughout.

The Unprepared Piano was one of the last performances of my musical work that I gave in the Czech Republic, where I had lived since March of 1991.  I returned to the United States in the fall of 1998.  As Herman Melville said, "Life's a voyage that's homeward bound."

- Bill LePage, 2020

Bill LePage was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1967.  He studied piano with his mother, Patricia LePage, a classically trained pianist, and percussion with his father, Leo LePage, a percussionist in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.  He also studied percussion at the Peabody Conservatory with John Locke and timpani with Dennis Kain, timpanist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.  In the summer before starting college, LePage studied conducting with Carl Roskott at the Eastern Music Festival, where he premiered his first orchestral work, Sonata for Orchestra.  His composition teachers at Boston University School of Music included Bernard Rands and Marjorie Merryman.  While at Boston University, he met John Cage, who attended a performance of his senior recital production, Pindemonium, a “comic” opera based on Bill Griffith’s comic strip “Zippy the Pinhead”.  The work was reviewed by Boston Rock Magazine as being “easily the equal of a lot of allegedly top flight New York stuff, not to mention a lot more fun.”  Shortly before his death, John Cage noted Mr. LePage at the Almeida Festival in London as “a very gifted young composer” when asked who he thought would carry on his work.

Mr. LePage lived in Prague, the Czech Republic during the 1990s.  His music was performed throughout the Czech Republic at festivals, concert halls, and music clubs.  His premiere in New York City took place in the year 2000 with the performance of his solo operas The Indian Notes and Marlowepera as part of the Sonic Adventure Series at GAle GAtes.  Mr. LePage has been a featured composer at the Begegnungen International Concert Series in Innsbruck, Austria and by the Gageego Ensemble in Sweden.  Howls for Saddam, a work for a large ensemble and four singers, combined music with a film by Matt Bucy.  It premiered at New York University and subsequently screened in Woodstock, Vermont.

Mr. LePage has received grants in recognition of his work from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts and Change, Inc.