Artifacts

Jeffrey Hall composer
Steven Beck piano

Release Date: February 3, 2023
Catalog #: NV6499
Format: Digital
21st Century
Solo Instrumental
Piano

Jeffrey John Hall resists conventionality, both in his compositions as well as in their titles. Hence the album consisting of his Seven Piano Pieces isn’t called a suite or a cycle, but simply ARTIFACTS. Immaculately performed by pianist Steven Beck, these profoundly cerebral works, written between 1976 and late 2019, mesmerize with a sober exploration of contemporary compositional techniques and the expressive potential of the piano. Often minimal, always highly subjective, Hall’s works embrace a flawless balance of communicative functionality and aesthetics, perfectly encapsulating their respective pocket of time, in quite the same manner as an archeological artifact, indeed.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Artifact I Jeffrey Hall Steven Beck, piano 9:26
02 Artifact II Jeffrey Hall Steven Beck, piano 19:00
03 Artifact III Jeffrey Hall Steven Beck, piano 13:39
04 Artifact IV Jeffrey Hall Steven Beck, piano 9:28
05 Artifact V Jeffrey Hall Steven Beck, piano 8:29
06 Artifact VI Jeffrey Hall Steven Beck, piano 9:08
07 Fall Spell Jeffrey Hall Steven Beck, piano 10:11

Recorded April 14th-15th, 2022, at Oktaven Studios in Mount Vernon NY
Recording Session Producer and Engineer Ryan Streber

Mastering Melanie Montgomery

Cover photo Matthew Hoelscher

Executive Producer Bob Lord

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Brett Iannucci

Artist Information

Jeffrey Hall

Composer

Jeffrey John Hall, a composer residing in Tucson AZ, was born in Milwaukee WI on May 22, 1941. His education includes both M.A. and D.M.A. degrees from Columbia University. He has written works for computer sound, voice, chamber ensembles, piano, and chamber orchestra.

Steven Beck

piano

In the 2019–2020 season, pianist Steven Beck performed Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals with the New York Philharmonic, and Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. He also reprised his annual Christmas Eve performance of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations at Bargemusic, the Brooklyn-based venue that has become a New York institution. Beck is an experienced performer of new music. He has worked with composers including Carter, Boulez, Dutilleux, Charles Wuorinen, George Crumb, Perle, and Fred Lerdahl, and performed with ensembles such as Speculum Musicae and the New York New Music Ensemble. Beck is a member of The Knights, Talea Ensemble, and Da Capo Chamber Players. He is also a member of Quattro Mani, a piano duo specializing in contemporary music. He has appeared as an orchestral keyboard player with the New York Philharmonic, New York City Ballet Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Mariinsky Orchestra, and many others. Beck’s discography includes Lieberson’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (for Bridge Records) and Carter’s Double Concerto (Albany Records). He is a Steinway Artist.

Notes

In resorting to the use of the term “Artifact,” I needed to find a concept that would fit into my notion of what I do in my compositions. In addition to wanting to avoid recurring to time-honored, albeit somewhat shop-worn names like “Suite” or “sonata,” I fell upon the idea that in my acquaintance with the science of Archaeology, so many of the found utilitarian objects had been fashioned by our forebears into what we call works of art. From painted pottery, bronze lamps and weapons, along with exquisitely knapped blades out of richly colored stone, the useful and esthetic were inseparably conjoined. So, whatever I might compose, useful or not, could, in the long term, be considered an artifact.

—Jeffrey Hall

Artifact I was finished around 1976. Its most salient trait is the differentiation, if not quite isolation, of its motives, phrases, and sections, a feature possibly derived from my hearing of the music of Webern. That being said, the resulting sound images reminded me of the Arizona landscapes where I had spent time camping and now live.

—Jeffrey Hall

Artifact II began in the summer of 1983 and reveals newer concerns and goals, not least of which was the need to compensate for the piano’s decay time by taking recourse to utilizing repetitive figurations such as arpeggiation, which like tremolos on string instruments provide a simple means to employ crescendo and diminuendo to isolated pitch segments. Thus, the isolated segments could be prolonged and linked. The resulting sound images reminded me of an Arabic poem on a wall tile in the Alhambra, which (if memory serves) says: “Hail, oh thou joyful fabric, which is like the Spring when the rain falls.”

—Jeffrey Hall

Artifact III began around 2012. Its three movements were conceived as an attempt to sharply differentiate the movements in figuration, texture, and rhythm, the first being the development of an elemental ostinato, the second being an arpeggiated toccata, and the third being a type of chaconne.

—Jeffrey Hall

Artifact IV began around early 2014. Representing an attempt to devise a piece in four movements, each began with a pitch segment of between five and seven pitches, which segment is thereafter subjected to an extended commentary and development.

—Jeffrey Hall

Artifact V was finished in late 2018, and continues and elaborates on the goals and procedures initiated in its predecessor, Artifact IV, the most salient difference being in the subdivisions of its main four movements into clearly demarcated subdivisions, closing with a subdivision modeled on turbulent systems.

—Jeffrey Hall

Artifact VI, the most recent of the series from 2021, is also the most dense in its texture and figuration. The first of its putative three movements is itself subdivided into four sections, and the succeeding movements seem to be succumbing to a kind of primal dance rhythm. Even given the time span of 45 years between Artifact I and Artifact VI, I find the contrast to be at least startling.

—Jeffrey Hall

Finally, Fall Spell from 1992 was excluded from being considered as a member of the Artifact series, largely because it was an experiment in a simple, sustained, almost 10-minute ostinato which ends in an archaistic cadence reminiscent of the 14th century. The resulting sound images reminded me of the vast northern forests of my native Wisconsin, hence the title.

—Jeffrey Hall