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There is incredible beauty to be found in “new” music. Its breadth and depth is astounding. I strongly believe that there is greater variety and quality of music today than there has ever been in the history of Western music. Finding new music, discovering it, and – better still – performing and promoting it, is more rewarding than I could have possibly imagined.
I was not always a new music pianist; Beethoven and Rachmaninoff were my early inspirations. My palate began to expand in 2004 at informal listening sessions with friends such as David D. McIntire, who now produces my recordings for Irritable Hedgehog Music. There I discovered numerous composers and pieces that might have otherwise eluded me. In 2006, I first heard the pieces that would change my life.
William Duckworth wrote The Time Curve Preludes in 1977-78. A set of 24 preludes divided into two books, these pieces exhibit the strong influence of minimalism, while incorporating elements of chant, Satie, and even banjo picking. I knew none of this when I first heard The Time Curve Preludes, but I did know almost immediately that these pieces were absolutely beautiful; I wanted to perform them and wanted to discover more pieces like them.
I slowly began to program these Duckworth preludes on degree recitals. While lay and educated audiences alike found this music fascinating, my fellow students were more likely to perform the works of late Messiaen or Stockhausen. Where they perhaps heard simplicity in minimalism, I heard beauty and depth, and my curiosity grew.
In the years that I have been exploring minimal music, I have yet to exhaust the composers or pieces who draw on the style as an influence. There are relatively unknown composers such as Dennis Johnson, Ann Southam, and Paul Epstein who were active before “minimalism” first entered the lexicon. And there are many, many more who have come since, inspired by the beauty of minimalist aesthetics.
I am entranced by the invitation that minimal music offers the listener. Rather than pushing and pulling listeners through a piece – manipulating us (no matter how deftly) into some experience – minimal music presents an invitation to explore a musical space slowly and carefully. Where Beethoven gave us drama that touches our souls, for which we rightly praise him, minimal music gives us a sunset, and we gaze in wonder.
My name is R. Andrew Lee, but you can call me Andy. I’m a pianist who plays a lot of new music, particularly of a minimalist bent, some of which I’ve recorded. I live in Madison, WI, and I’m a proud to say I’m from Kansas City. I’m married and have two daughters and one son. I take my grilling seriously and have a penchant for interesting socks.
Boring Bio in the Style of Every Other Boring Bio You’ve Ever Read
Pianist R. Andrew Lee is one of the foremost interpreters of minimal music. He has been described as having “sterling technique” (Pitchfork) and “consistently impressive solo releases” (New York Times), and his CD, Eva-Maria Houben: Piano Music, was chosen by Alex Ross in The New Yorker as one of the Top 10 Classical Recordings of 2013. He has recorded 15 albums for Irritable Hedgehog Music, Recital, and Unseen Worlds including the premiere recording of Dennis Johnson’s 5-hour minimalist epic, November (Best Classical Album of 2013, Time Out New York), and a 3.5-hour commissioned work from composer Randy Gibson (Best Classical Album of 2017, Textura).
Lee has performed in a number of venues and festivals dedicated to experimental music around the world, including the Skanu Mezs Festival (Riga, Latvia), Unsound Festival (Krakow, Poland), Café OTO (London), ISSUE Project Room (New York), Roulette (New York), Constellation (Chicago), and The Wild Beast (Los Angeles).
The intersection of minimal music and temporality is a primary research interest for Lee. As such, he has presented papers and lecture-recitals at several international conferences, most recently the Sixth International Conference on Minimalist Music (University of Tennessee) and Time’s Excesses and Eccentricities in Music, Literature and Art (Université de Caen Basse-Normandie). His writing has been published by Divergence Press.
Lee previously taught at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, and was Artist-in-Residence at Avila University. Lee received his DMA in Piano Performance from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music, where he studied under the direction of Prof. John McIntyre.