This season we’ve witnessed a quiet explosion of choreographed piano videos, the most memorable from Koki Nakano. The title of the pianist’s latest album hints at its origins, as the artist was inspired while watching a dance performance in France. He began to think about the relationship between the environment and the body, the song and the dance. These pieces were composed with movement in mind, producing an effect akin to techno and IDM, albeit less for clubs than for the great outdoors. While most solo pianists are associated with grand halls or intimate rooms, Nakano chooses a more widescreen approach. This is apparent as early as the opening track, which erupts into a brief staccato segment reminiscent of Hauschka’s more electronic experiments.
“Bloomer” is the piece that caught our attention earlier this year, thanks to director Benjamin Seroussi and dancer Mariko Kakizaki. Everything about this video is impressive, from the dancer’s musculature and expressiveness to the lighting and location. The dancer’s shadow serves as another character, just as the static casts a shadow of its own. This isn’t a piece most people would think about dancing to, but after seeing this rendition, they will. Kakizaki conveys the internal tension of the piece through straining arms and shoulders, then leans into the fluidity of the piece with softer movements.
This video was followed by “Near-Perfect Synchronization,” featuring the same director and another dancer, Amala Dianor. The style and setting are completely different, the dancer alternating between robotic and balletic maneuvers, the long, flat surface providing ample space to run, leap and twirl. A thematic connection to “Bloomer” is made through the use of a large sheet, while musically the static of “Bloomer” is met by breaking ice.
More videos are still to come, but we’re already imagining what might become of these pieces, which teem with drama and rhythm. The stops and starts of “Minum” could lead to freezes, full collapses, or quiet continuations, while the abstractions of “Palinopsia” might produce jerky movements or inspire the use of a strobe light to express the effect of its title. We’re already visualizing Nakano’s music in a new, pre-choreographed manner.
“Graftage” is the fusing of plant tissue; the urgent track seems a natural successor to “Bloomer” and a perfect fit for spring. We picture two dancers of different ages. The same holds true for “Train-Train,” whose title and timbre urge repetition, doubling, pas de deux. Each small crash conjures images of quiet collision. The album ends on a fun note: “Faire le poirier” means “perform a headstand,” and that’s what Nakano has done with this release; he’s turned every expectations of piano music on its head. (Richard Allen)