By Chris Norton
The pieces in Big Beats series are writtin a variety of modern styles, some of them quite extreme. They are rewarding as solo pieces, but they also have another vital dimension which emerges when they are played with the backings on tracks 1-10 of the CD provided.
Each piece should first be learned without the CD. Focus on the notes, fingerings, dynamics, pedalling (or breathing), ideally with a metronome. Start slower than the tempo indicated, but always aim for strictly rhythmic playing. Once you feel secure - both in terms of the notes and the strict tempo - introduce the CD. The beginning of every piece is cued by two bars of pulse.
The backings are challenging and surprising, as they are in styles that may be unfamiliar. The effect is one of immersion in a sound world that is greater than the sum of its parts - it is no longer simply a solo pianist and a backing, but a dramatic blend of the two. Be brave and play the backings loud! Alternatively, playing whilst listening to the backing through headphones really enhances the sense of being right in the middle of the performance.
Tracks 11-20 of the CD contain recordings of the solo part and backings together. These give an idea of the total effect and should serve to whet the performer's appetite.