Kyle Adam Blair Presents: “With A Little Help From My Friends…”

April 6th, 7pm, Conrad Prebys Music Center, Concert Hall
Facebook event

Kyle Adam Blair, piano

Stuart Saunders Smith – Family Portraits: Self (in 14 Stations) (1997)
Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh – Radius (2017)
Charles Ives – Piano Sonata No. 2 (Concord, Mass. 1840-1860) (1911-15)


Dedicated to his late father Charles, Kyle Adam Blair’s final solo piano recital at UCSD explores themes of friendship, community, and reverence. The title “With A Little Help From My Friends…” pays homage to one of Charles Blair’s favorite musical moments: Joe Cocker’s performance of The Beatles’ song of the same name at Woodstock 1969.

Though this program doesn’t sound anything like Joe Cocker or The Beatles, the sentiments of that song ring true Blair performs works by two of his close friends, Stuart Saunders Smith and Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh, during the first portion of the program. Smith invokes the Stations of the Cross in his Family Portraits: Self, a piece composed of 14 brief movements, some as short as 10 seconds.

Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh’s Radius, written in 2017, explores physical distances ranging outward from the pianist himself. The sonic novelties elicited by performing inside the piano, when combined the visual theatre of the pianist’s motions, make for a truly arcane experience.

The recital concludes with Charles Ives’ 45-minute masterwork, Piano Sonata No. 2 (Concord, Mass. 1840–1860), which consists of four movements named after 19th century transcendentalist writers. In the first movement, “Emerson”, Ives imagines Ralph Waldo “standing on a summit, at the door of the infinite where many men do not dare to climb…hurling back whatever he discovers there…thunderbolts for us to grasp, if we can…” Ives titles his frenetic, humorous scherzo “Hawthorne” after Nathaniel, a second movement which Ives describes as “an extended fragment trying to suggest some of his wilder, fantastical adventures into the half-childlike, half-fairylike phantasmal realms.” “The Alcotts”, named after Amos Bronson, Louisa May, and the rest of the family, juxtaposes a scene of Beth Alcott sitting at a spinet piano playing through bits of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 against Amos’ impassioned rhetoric. Finally, the sonata closes with “Thoreau” named after Henry David. This movement paints an impressionistic image of him at Walden Pond, which Ives describes in the following passage:

“…And if there shall be a program let if follow his thought on an autumn day of Indian summer at Walden—a shadow of a thought at first, colored by the mist and haze over the pond:
Low anchored cloud,
Fountain head and
Source of rivers…
Dew cloth, dream drapery—
Drifting meadow of the air…”

Kyle Adam Blair is a D.M.A. candidate in Contemporary Music Performance under the tutelage of Aleck Karis.

Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh

Born in Taiwan and raised between New Zealand and Australia, I began my music lessons at the age of 4 first on the piano, then the oboe soon after. I received both my Bachelor and Masters degrees in composition from the University of Melbourne under the guidance of Brenton Broadstock and Stuart Greenbaum, and subsequently participated in several professional development programs in Australia to work with ensembles such as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Tasmania Symphony Orchestra, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Australian youth Orchestra and The Song Company. In 2015 my orchestral work ‘Icy Disintegration’ was recorded and broadcasted by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

I consider music primarily as a tool of communication, that’s why I often think about composition in terms of its aptitude of affective and perceptive possibilities. I try to explore in my works ways in which expressive intentions can be perceived through the experience of live performance, and the uniqueness of each delivery at the particular time and space.

My works have been commissioned by entities such as The Arts Centre Melbourne, Queensland Conservatorium Griffths University, Beijing Modern Music Festival, Symphony Services Australia, Wien Modern, Royaumont Foundation; and have been featured in festivals including including Metropolis New Music Festival, OzAsia Festival, Tectonic Festival 2016 (Adelaide), ISCM World Music Days 2016 (Tongyeong, Korea), EUREKA! Musical Minds of California and Seoul International Computer Music Festival.

I received my Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego and currently teach at Carnegie Mellon University as an Assistant Teaching Professor in Music.

Some of the upcoming projects for 2018-2019 include collaborations with pianist Mari Kawamura, ELISION Ensemble, and a new work for the Ulysses Ensemble 2018.

Stuart Saunders Smith

Stuart Saunders Smith was born in Portland Maine, and began his percussion and composition studies at the age of six with Charles Newcomb. He studied harmony, counterpoint, and arranging at the Berklee School of Music in 1966, and continued his percussion and composition studies at the Hartt College of Music (1967–1972) and the University of Illinois at Urbana (1973–1977). He currently resides in the state of Vermont with his wife Sylvia.

In nearly fifty years of composing music, Stuart Saunders Smith has amassed a body of well over 100 works that have consistently defied the status quo. His compositional aesthetics are broad and somewhat different in every piece – many compositions feature wholly unique notational systems that the composer himself has invented. In categorizing Smith’s work, one finds four primary areas of focus: music of extreme rhythmic and melodic intricacy; musical mobiles with instrumental parts that freely interact; text-based compositions; trans-media systems for any kind of performing artist(s). At the core of each of these styles, there is a focus on language – body language, melody, and speech – which Smith uses as his primary tool for contemplating a deeper question: how do we perceive and interact with the sounds we hear around us?
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