Canyons by Thomas Osborne

Tonight we 4 pianists premiere a new 4 piano work by Thomas Osborne, assistant professor of composition and theory at University of Hawaii Manoa. It will be the highlight of a program of works for 2 and 4 pianos by 6 pianists in celebration of French Independence Day and John Cage’s 100th birthday on Maui.


We six pianists first met on Sunday 4th March 2012 in Ruth Murata’s Maui Music Conservatory. Ebb & Flow Arts had commissioned a new piece for 4 pianos. As time marched on, we got anxious if we’d get the score in time to study individually and then rehearse as a group.

As with all new music, the approach is to first scan it, assess the difficulty and amount of time required to study it. We’d identify the challenging areas and spend more time studying them than the rest. We’d use a metronome to ensure we keep to a steady beat.

When we got together to rehearse on subsequent Sunday afternoons, we’d notice that the music for 4 pianos was quite different from the single score we were given to study. After studying Milhaud’s Paris, Busby’s Four!, Depue’s 16 Pawns, and two piano works, we learned towards the end of May, that Honolulu-based composer Thomas Osborne’s new work was ready.

When I first looked at “Canyons” I didn’t know what to make of it. The mp3 recording sounded extremely exciting though. I was willing to give it a chance. I became one of the pianists committed to studying it for premiere on 14th July. Robert Pollock, the founder and director of Ebb & Flow Arts, planned for us three pianists to rehearse and the last 3 rehearsals with the composer as the 4th pianist.

“Canyons” plays on the term canons. It uses imitation and terraced dynamics to produce the kind of echo effect you can hear in a canyon. The first pianist to play is Piano 4 — loud. The next pianist — Piano 3 — is slightly less loud. These dynamic levels are to be kept throughout the piece.

Canyons by Thomas Osborne, page 1
Canyons by Thomas Osborne, page 1

Robert Pollock and I discussed this and other works on Kaoi Radio recently.

Here’s the 25 minute audio clip.

Tonight’s concert is FREE — and expected to draw a standing-room only audience. My only regret is that we get to perform each piece just once — tonight.

Piano Synergy! Concert, 14th July 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Maui Music Conservatory, 2nd floor of the very centrally located Queen Ka’ahumanu Shopping Mall in Kahului, on Maui, Hawaii. We begin with a work of John Cage and end with Darius Milhaud’s Paris.

The highlight of the evening will surely be Thomas Osborne’s “Canyons.”

Canyons by Thomas Osborne bars 84 to 87
Canyons by Thomas Osborne bars 84 to 87

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

2 thoughts on “Canyons by Thomas Osborne”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s