U professor debuts piano piece

University of Minnesota visiting associate professor Noriko Kawai will take the stage, and the piano, Wednesday night to perform the North American debut of a piano composition written by her colleague. âÄúThe Book of ElementsâÄù was composed by James Dillon , musical composition professor at the University and an internationally acclaimed composer. Kawai, a collaborative piano professor at the School of Music, has previously performed the piece, a five-volume piano solo, in Europe. According to Kawai, the performance in its entirety is about 90 minutes without intermission. Dillon is often considered a foremost member of the âÄúNew ComplexityâÄù variety of avant garde classical music. âÄúThe Book of ElementsâÄù earned him his second Royal Philharmonic Society Award . Kawai said sheâÄôs excited for the performance, and that the piece is important to her âÄúmusically, emotionally and professionally.âÄù The soloâÄôs North American debut has been a long time coming. Dillon completed volume one in 1997, volume three in 2000, volume two in 2001, and volumes four and five in 2002. Kawai is one of two pianists who have performed all five volumes. âÄúItâÄôs the first time in almost 15 years that IâÄôve composed a solo piano work,âÄù said Dillon. âÄúIâÄôm hoping for an open-minded and curious audience interested in taking an extended musical journey.âÄù DillonâÄôs decision to end his hiatus from solo piano composition came after receiving requests from five pianists, including Kawai, within a year. âÄúThe Book of ElementsâÄù is inspired by the traditional Chinese elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water, he said. Kawai said she wanted people to come with a âÄúfree mind and no prejudice.âÄù âÄúItâÄôs hearing the music and the atmosphere that it creates thatâÄôs important,âÄù she said. Kawai started playing piano before age three and has performed across the globe. âÄúMy mother played the piano,âÄù Kawai said. âÄúI liked the instrument. After being taken to childrenâÄôs concert, I insisted that I play also.âÄù Before coming to the University, Kawai was a piano professor at Royal College of Music , her alma mater, in London. It was in London that Kawai first met Dillon. A self-taught composer, Dillon grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. He said some of his earliest musical memories involve watching Elvis Presley on television and performing in a Scottish bagpipe band. âÄúThe thing that fascinates me about music more than anything is the energy between the notes,âÄù Dillon said. âÄúYou can really feel how powerful it is. ItâÄôs a sort of joyous energy.âÄù Michael Cherlin , also a music school professor, hosted a lecture with Dillon and Kawai on Tuesday about DillonâÄôs portfolio of work. âÄú[Dillon has] an unfettered imagination, extraordinary craft and a vital life force which comes through in his music,âÄù Cherlin said. KawaiâÄôs performance is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Ted Mann Concert Hall.