John Corigliano: Winging It

John Corigliano: Winging It
© J. Henry Fair
On May 5, 2009 at New York’s Symphony Space, Ursula Oppens premieres Winging It, a unique piano work from John Corigliano. This is Corigliano’s third work for solo piano; however, for this piece Corigliano took a different approach.

“I used to improv a lot, but I never wrote any of it down,” Corigliano recounts. For the new work, commissioned by Oppens, Corigliano was interested in turning his improvisations into notated music. Here, Corigliano employed technology: a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) keyboard interfaced with a computer program (Digital Performer) that recorded Corigliano’s improvisations.

Ultimately keeping only a handful of the improvs, and then settling on 3 for the final work, Corigliano and his assistant, Mark Baechle, spent most of the process using Digital Performer to figure out exactly what Corigliano had improvised. “The hard part was to make this into standard piano notation for Ursula,” Corigliano explains. In the end, other than a few rare moments that were edited for practical reasons, what Baechle and Corigliano notated is what Corigliano had improvised.

Looking forward to the premiere, Corigliano thinks it will be interesting to hear Oppens’ interpretation of his improvisations: “I may be surprised by the differences,” he admits, “it will be an exciting moment.”

Listen to John Corigliano describe his improvisations and the process behind creating Winging It. Hear an excerpt of his improvisations and see the computer program that made Winging It possible

John Corigliano
Winging It 15'
piano solo