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"Genesis For Two Grand Pianos Vol. 2" and David Myers': "Plays Genesis"

It is a time-honored tradition that music originally written for several instruments or voices is occasionally re-arranged for the piano. Usually the purpose behind it is to enable people to hear a piece of music when neither a recording (which was obviously the case before the advent of gramophones) nor an ensemble who could perform it were available. This so-called piano score is also a rehearsal aid in that it helps individual musicians practise their part in the music. One can also use it to study the music in depth: The possibilities of pronunciation and the varied sounds individual instruments offer are all reduced to the sound and the pronunciation of the piano – and vocals are left out completely. This focuses the attention on the harmonies and rhythms of the music, aspects that, depending on the style, are considered the essence of music. The song becomes abstract, as it were.
When this technique is applied to the music commonly called rock or popmusic – and Genesis and their solo projects are usually lumped with it – there is usually little or nothing left worth listening to. Around the turn of the millennium Yngve Guddal and Roger T. Matte discovered that this is not the case with Genesis. They proceeded to prove their point very impressively using two grand pianos so that they would not have to cut away too many elements of the occasionally very complex music and so that they could keep more of the frequently overwhelming richness of sound in the original. The two Norwegians have now continued their project, releasing another CD with seven new recordings. The only difference is that this time they state which one of them has worked out the arrangement.

David Myers plays GenesisOne can also move on from the faithful piano arrangement and use their creativity to cautiously change the music to adapt it to the aesthetic possibilities of the piano, i.e. try out new stylistic devices or find out how it sounds in minor or major or at half the speed … there really are no limits in experimenting.
David Myers, well-known as the keyboarder of the terrific Genesis cover band The Musical Box, has gone the latter way, though he has only strayed a little from the original. “Their [Genesis'] music has so much depth that the arrangements I created could have taken hundreds of other forms - this is just one possible combination” he wrote in the notes to his first CD that was followed by another last year. A total of 21 songs were recorded on a piano though Myers, faced and frustrated with the difficulty of recording flawless versions of all passages had considered using a digital piano and software to delete the mistakes.
The Canadian and the Norwegians have covered a repertoire of 27 Genesis songs. Eight of those were recorded by both parties which offers the opportunity to compare:


The Fountain Of Salmacis (Myers’ coda is slower and quieter)
Seven Stones
Can-Utility And The Coastliners
The Cinema Show
Mad Man Moon
One For The Vine
Blood On The Rooftops (though any attempt to recreate the magic of the original on the piano is doomed to failure)
Evidence Of Autumn

The music was picked from the studio albums Nursery Cryme through to Abacab (plus Evidence Of Autumn). Best represented are And Then There Were Three and -  surprise! –Nursery Cryme with five pieces each. The title song from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway was recorded for two pianos only and the most recent song is Me And Sarah Jane. While the latter piece originally begins with a drumbox Guddal and Matte gave it a brief prologue of changing chords though usually they rarely digress intentionally from the original.

Genesis for two Grand PianosThe oldest piece would have been Dusk, but like All In A Mouse’s Night it did not make it on David Myer’s second album. Live classics stand next to rarities like Harold The Barrel, Time Table and A Trick Of The Tail, songs mainly chosen by the TMB keyboarder. To those who love the music of Genesis (particularly their work from the 70s) and would like to experience it from a new perspective the four albums by Guddal/Matte and Myers are heartily recommended. Fly on the wings of the two Norwegian pianos and delight in all the details that surface in the arrangements.
Myers is restricted to one piano, of course, and his album would soon seem weak and tiring if he had just stuck to recreating Genesis’ music on the piano. But since he presents the music from a different point of view the listener experiences it like a new song. Undertow is a good example for such a re-born song on Myers’ album, or Firth Of Fifth, which has no guitar solo but an extended closing section. When a piece of music is interpreted in a new way and manages to convince the listener of its quality (as Myers’ interpretation does) without having lost its essence one can truly say that these songs have the potential to be a real classic.

by Andreas Lauer
translated by Martin Klinkhardt