In new piano music I look for a strong emotional connection to the work, for example: chills up my spine, tears to my eyes—that sort of thing! This connection one cannot just invent or compose, it stems from the inner talent, the instincts and life of the composer. It is rare! It doesn’t just happen by being smart, or having perfect pitch. It is that ‘thing’ that is so hard to define: a series of musical events, in their unique context, that move you, stay with you, and change your view of the world.
How does one translate this into practical terms? Perhaps by bringing to the table tools from the entire history of music—in other words, not limiting the compositional palette, yet possessing originality. For me this usually translates into various practical features such as a strong formal sense (but this could mean a conventional beginning, middle and end, or one huge block of sound), harmonic and rhythmic drive, not necessarily functional harmony, or non-functional tonality, but a sense of vivid harmonic language (not gray). I like rich chords, harsh chords, dry chords, accents, syncopations, color contrasts, and, yes, a love for the piano itself—a knowledge of what ‘sounds’ good ‘where’ on the keyboard.