George Lewis – „Blombos Workshop”, world premiere by Agnese Egliņa

George Lewis:  Blombos Workshop (2020), for piano solo

This work engages an overarching concern of the Jamaican critical theorist Sylvia Wynter—the promise and potential of the human. Wynter’s account of the human is structured as three consequential “Events”: the Big Bang, the advent of biological life, and the origin of abstract thinking and narrative in the modern human. While the existence of cave paintings dating from the European Upper Paleolithic had long been deployed to mark Europe as the origin point of modern symbolic thought, in 1999, an abstract drawing discovered in Blombos Cave in South Africa was reliably dated at around 73,000 years old, or about the time that the most recent wave of modern humans began migrating out of Africa. This drawing and other materials found at the site, which preceded the European paintings by at least 30,000 years, provided the scientific basis for the decentering of Europe from the origin of the “human symbolic revolution.”

This drawing was found in an even older complex, a workshop with container shells and stone tools used for making pigments dating to 100,000 years old.  My imagining of this workshop, which has everything to do with music as fundamental to the conception of the human, forms the basis for the sounds and procedures that animate Blombos Workshop. Although the piece is extensively notated, tools for real-time musical creation are provided, along the lines of a conceptual workshop. The pianist should feel free to use the given materials to create a version of the piece that combines my conception with her own.  To end the piece, the pianist creates a short open improvisation with personally generated material that never appears anywhere else in the piece.

I am most grateful to Agnese Eglina for tackling this intricate and challenging new work, and to Rihards Endriksons and the Skanu Mezs Festival for making it possible.

— George Lewis

Latvian pianist Agnese Egliņa a possesses sharp-edged stage presence, playful dexterity, and plenty of excitement and vigor. Agnese Egliņa is a laureate of the highest music award in Latvia The Grand Music Award for outstanding ensemble work and of many awards at international competitions.

As a soloist and chamber musician Agnese has participated in many international music festivals. She has appeared at Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, International Montpellier Music Festival, Promenade at Lusaka, Zambia, VII Kremerata Baltica Festival, Moscow Chamber Music Days, 16th and 21st Liepāja International Piano Stars Festival and many others.

Agnese Egliņa will premiere the composition “Blombos Workshop” by the American composer, trombonist, computer music innovator, and McCarthy’s “genius award” winner George E. Lewis. Lewis is a member of the African-American composers and instrumentalist union AACM and has not written works for solo piano since 1994.