Kelly-Marie Murphy: Let Hands Speak (2003)
Let Hands Speak was commissioned for the Fourth Honens International Piano Competition as the imposed piece to be played by all 21 quarterfinalists. As a work that is meant to showcase the individual talents of pianists who have an extremely high level of skill and virtuosity, it is necessarily challenging both musically and technically. Each performer has to navigate the powerful, rhythmic gestures, the fast scalar passages, the lyrical moments, and must also be able to successfully tame the outermost registers of the piano. There is a section of the piece that prevails upon the creative abilities of each performer as well. A left-hand ostinato has been given, over which the right-hand must improvise a stylistically suitable passage.
The title of the piece comes from a photograph by the artist Josef Albers, entitled Let Hands Speak Summer 1930. The image uses as its subject the mannequin, which was a favourite icon of the Dada movement. Although it was usually used to represent the mindless, soulless, bourgeois culture, Albers found the mannequins to have a beauty and grace that was not only human, but also lent itself well to the study of opposing characteristics such as hard and soft, straight and curved. And so too this piece is a study in opposites and the act of breathing life into the lifeless.