Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Anyone who doubts new piano music is alive, healthy, and thriving need only investigate Don’t Panic!, a collection of 60 one-minute-maximum works by 60 composers from 18 countries. Pianist Guy Livingston instigated the project, and you could hardly find a more affable and imaginative performer to do justice to such a wide stylistic and emotional range of music. I had the good fortune to hear Livingston perform selections from Don’t Panic! on a dinky upright piano in a tiny New York nightclub, of all places. The sheer fun, enthusiasm, and fearless virtuosity he brought to the music totally comes across on disc, abetted by splendid engineering and, of course, a beautiful grand piano.

What are my favorite pieces? I can’t tell you, because they change from day to day, minute by minute. For starters, there’s the jazzy jaggedness of T.J. Anderson’s Watermelon Revisited, the gracious keyboard writing and humor of Vanessa Lann’s DD (Double D), William Bolcom’s witty and harmonically refined A 60-second Ballet for Chickens, and Josh Cody’s dense and difficult Two-Chord Warp. High-register twitterings dominate Paul Beaudoin’s re:dance; Marek Zebrowski’s Ex tempore takes its cue from Scriabin; and Roger Kleier’s trademark power guitar chords find a formidable pianistic equivalent in Step Out of the Car. Moritz Eggert’s Hämmerklavier XI weaves rapid text and music fragments into a mesmerizing short-attention-span theater, while Ketzel Cotel’s “piece for paws” is a note-for-note transcription of musical notes played by a cat walking across a keyboard. (Maybe it should have been titled “Kidding on the Keys”.)

It’s best to discover your own favorites, either by sticking with Livingston’s carefully considered running order, or pressing the random play button and letting yourself be surprised. This is one of the freshest and most entertaining new music piano discs of 2001, and it deserves to sell millions. Livingston continues to collect one-minute pieces from composers (including my own demented compression of all 32 Beethoven Sonatas within a 60-second time frame!), and perhaps there’s enough music for a sequel in the near future. You go, Guy!

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one

Various composers & works -

  • Guy Livingston (piano)

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