What are you looking for in pieces of new piano music? Sarah Cahill

Sarah Cahill
Photo by David Casteel

First of all, it helps if a score is clearly legible. Then, I try to get a sense of its overall structure, both away from and at the piano. If it’s impenetrable or confused, I probably won’t play it. I’m also not interested in any score that’s unnecessarily complex, or that involves harsh or ugly music-making. It shouldn’t cause aural or physical pain. Ideally, it should feel good in the hands. I want the composer to understand the instrument and the kaleidoscopic sound worlds it can produce. Sometimes, a new piece causes a rush of excitement, and I can’t stop reading through it repeatedly, anticipating the pleasure of diving in. That’s ultimately what I look for.