Exercising both the inside and outside of the piano means that you are dealing with the entire instrument. It means that you are dealing with all of the piano’s dynamics. And discovering what is possible within the realm of possibilities which you know, as a musician, you cannot possibly exhaust.
David Arner’s piano vocabulary in his new solo recording is extraordinarily rich. He has augmented his musical vocabulary with this one instrument volumetrically.
His sense of the piano is extremely acute. He knows the piano’s relationship to how the sound will rise out of it. The key to the relationship is the attack he will choose: planting his fingers on the keys, using his fingers to pluck the strings on the sounding board, holding a mallet to bounce on the strings.... Then, comes the music. How the notes are put together, how the phases become sensible, and how pushing the envelope on repetitions of phrases imbues great power in a sonorous atmosphere to build its omnipresence and incessant tempo. This atmosphere is juxtaposed to quietude, and equally present are runs and trills, silence and deeply felt and internally driven accents and sustenutos and dampening resonance. The music is in a perfect balance.
Arner’s playing has characteristics that qualify as signature. There are times when he executes his music as if it were played on a piano roll. It is really quite amazing. He can manufacture brilliant continuity with the left hand which simultaneously is countered by a right-handed series of separated single, double, triple notes. Then the two hands switch roles and the continuity evolves in another way. Just as intense as the multiplicitous ranges of note and phrase series could be a repeated, very evenly timed single note cadenza. Arner’s choice of how to combine the tonal with the percussive gives substance to the origin of both, which is the same.
Arner approaches his improvisations with exquisite conception. The rapidity and clarity with which his pieces precisely unfold are remarkable. It is with certainty that I feel that his idea of time corresponds with its passage. It is as if he doesn’t want to let one increment of time pass unnoticed, undocumented, unused. In this way, he is bearing witness to time in its penultimate form. For the process of improvisation is, in itself, a means to document time. It is a means for the mind, emotion and universal view to blend into an unfettered, irrevocable, inimitable sound force. The ramifications of that marriage are completely absorbing and a lesson in how vast is the capacity of this pianist to create exciting, energized and unforgettable music.
Arner steps beyond the academic. It is that step which takes him into musical zones that not only require rapt attention but also render rapt attention an automatic response to the music.