Keith Kirchoff | Variants

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by Keith Kirchoff

A collection of variations and other works for solo piano including three world premier recordings.
Genre: Classical: Piano solo
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Ping-Pong Variations: I. Ping-Pong Variations
9:08 album only
2. Ping-Pong Variations: II. Conscious Automata
6:20 album only
3. Ping-Pong Variations: III. Externalities
5:30 album only
4. Stilling
5:32 album only
5. Variants
4:19 album only
6. Nocturne
3:27 album only
7. Mayn Yingele (Live Recording)
20:51 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
It is not uncommon for musicians to record music that never gets released. It can happen for any number of reasons: Sometimes the player simply doesn't like the recording and withdraws it. Sometimes there just weren't enough good takes. Sometimes there are legal issues surround copyright. Sometimes the room was too noisy. Sometimes there's not enough money to finish the project. Sometimes life takes over, things get too busy, and the project just never gets finished.

I had a teacher in graduate school who had probably recorded at least a dozen records that never got released. I could never understand it at the time: "You put so much work into this project," I would think. "Why not see it through and release the album!" Little did I realize at the time that the same thing would one day happen to me!

At the moment of this album's release, I have probably four to five hours of unreleased material. Some of it is good, some of it is not. Some just hasn't gotten finished, and for some I don't even own the rights to the recording.

This recording is a collection of some of those previously unreleased works. Four of the five works were studio recordings that were originally intended for different projects that were never fully realized. Each of these studio recordings (with the exception of Nocturne) is a World Premier recording. The performance of Rzewski's "Mayn Yingele" is a live and unedited recording played with the composer present. (Audience noise is unavoidably heard throughout.) Only one recording was ever previously released: Lombardi’s "Nocturne" was first published on Albuzerxque Vol. 26 in 2007 by Zerx Leisure Productions. It was, however, missing the first chord due to an editing error. (This rerelease has that chord properly reinserted!)

Many thanks to Christopher Biggs, Paul Lombardi, Steven Ricks, Mark Weber, and Hollis Nolan for their help in assembling this record, and to Frederic Rzewski for his mentorship. The music of these composers deserves to be heard, and I am delighted and honored to be able to share it with whomever will listen.

-Keith Kirchoff (2013)


Christopher Biggs:
Ping-Pong Variations (2003-2006)
*world premier recording*

"Ping-Pong Variations" is a set of three solo piano pieces that can be performed as a group or independently. These pieces are the earliest work that I keep in my catalog and each piece reflects a different influence on my musical development at the time they were composed, especially regarding pitch materials.

The first piece, "The Ping-Pong Variations," has a strong American folk-music influence. The theme is diatonic and child-like. The second work, "Conscious Automata," is entirely chromatic. The pitches are chosen freely and the harmonic construction is often tertian in a style similar to Berg’s Piano Sonata. The final piece, "Externalities," is also entirely chromatic; however, the pitches are derived in various ways from a 12-tone row.

Despite the differences in pitch-language, the pieces are held together through gestures and the application of similar variation techniques. All the pieces are economical in their materials. As a set, they create a narrative that describes a progressive loss of control and innocence.

-Christopher Biggs

Steven Ricks:
Stilling (1997)
*world premier recording*

I composed "Stilling" during an intensive four-week span in 1997, while I was a graduate student at the University of Utah. I had become acquainted with (then) faculty poet Donald Revell, and upon reading several of his works grew quite fond of his poem "Stilling." (see below) I attempted to translate the the images, emotions, and words of the poem into sound in my piece, and the relatively clear three-part structure of my composition is based on the form of the poem.

I was accepted as a fellow at the 2002 June in Buffalo composition seminar, and revised "Stilling" that same year before its performance at the festival by Ian Pace. I subsequently included a recording of that performance on a CD-R that I deftly passed to Keith in 2006 – our first meeting – after his solo recital at the SEAMUS National Conference, University of Oregon. I suppose in some ways this piece was the start of what has been (for me at least) a very fruitful and enjoyable collaboration. I appreciate that Keith chose to include it in his repertoire when he competed at the 2007 Gaudeamus competition in the Netherlands, and that he has included it in this current collection of recordings.

-Steven Ricks

Stilling by Donald Revell

The last snow is baited.
Where the future shatters
it unbends.
The dry bed of entirety,
where the sun bends,
I was not afraid to tell you:
at the first and then
the third horizon,
a copse-mountain
opened so near to me
I weighed nothing,
and you laid the flower in my mouth.
These are not animals.
These are the partial genocides
deeply uncompensated.
Under the grass
there is nothing but water
and two wings.

Paul Lombardi:
Variants (1996, rev. 2005)
*world premier recording*
Nocturne (2005)

"Variants" was composed in 1996, and is dedicated to my pianist friend Jean Miller from my hometown of Mount Shasta, California. Like much of the music I composed at this time, "Variants" is neoromantic. It was revised in 2005 in preparation for collaboration with Keith Kirchoff.

"Variants" was inspired by Chopin’s "Berceuse, Op. 57." Both pieces contain ostinatos of repeated chords called chaconnes. "Berceuse" is French for lullaby or cradle song, and features a process called continuous variations. Like a rocking cradle, the piece gently sways back and forth between tonic and dominant chords. Similarly, "Variants" also features continuous variations in that it continually sweeps over two chromatic-mediant-related chords. In both pieces, the melodies over the ostinatos are sometimes sweet and sometimes virtuosic. Near the end of "Berceuse" as the music winds down, there is a tonicization of the subdominant so that the archetypal tonal model contained in all music from the common practice period (1650–1900) can be manifested. "Variants" gives a similar feeling near its end with a linear pattern of triads. The effect in both pieces creates a gratifying experience.

In 2004 and 2005, my musical style significantly changed. "Nocturne" was composed in 2005 during this change, and is my last composition in a neoromantic style. Like "Variants," "Nocturne" is also inspired by Chopin, but to me, the most signature element of the piece is the rhythm, which makes use of excessive rubato and asymmetrical beat durations in an unmetered context. When the opening theme returns towards the end of the piece, the accompanimental figuration features a working out of permutations. These mathematical processes touched upon in "Nocturne" become fundamental aspects of many of my more recent compositions.

-Paul Lombardi

Frederic Rzewski:
Mayn Yingele (1988)

"Mayn Yingele" (My Little Son), written for Ursula Oppens, is a set of twenty-four variations on a traditional tune, with words by Morris Rosenfeld, the poet of the New York sweatshops, who was active around the turn of the century. The Yiddish text is a compaint sung by a father who goes to work early in the morning and comes home late at night, so that he is never able to see his baby boy except when he is asleep.

I began writing this piece in November, 1988, on the 50th anniversary of the Kristallnacht, the infamous Night of Broken Glass of 1938, which marked the official beginning of the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people. My piece is a reflection on that vanished part of Jewish tradition which so strongly colors, by its absence, the culture of our time.

-Frederic Rzewski

Mayn Yingele by Morris Rosenfeld

Ikh hob a kleynem yingele,
A zunele gor fayn!
Ven ikh derzey im dakht zikh mir,
Di gantse velt iz mayn.
Nor zeltn, zeltn zey ikh im,
Mayn sheynem, ven er vakht,
Ikh tref im imer shlofendik,
Ikh zey im gor bay nakht.
Di arbet traybt mikh fri aroys
Un lozt mikh shpet tsurik;
A fremd iz mir mayn eygn leyb!
O, fremd mayn kind's a blik!
Ikh kum tsuklemterheyt aheym,
In finsternish gehilt, -
Mayn blaykhe froy dertseylt mir bald,
Vi fayn dos kind zikh shpilt,
Vi zis es redt, vi klug es fregt:
"O, mame, gute ma,
Ven kumt un brengt a peni mir
Mayn guter, guter pa?"
Ikh her es tsu un ayl - es muz, -
Yo, yo, es muz gesheyn!
Di foterlibe flakert oyf:
Es muz mayn kind mikh zeyn!....
Ikh shtey bay zayn gelegerl
Un zey, un her, un sha!
A troym bavegt di lipelekh:
"O, vu iz, vu iz pa?"
Ikh kush di bloye eygelekh,
Zey efn'n zikh - "o, kind!"
Zey zeyen mikh, zey zeyen mikh,
Un shlisn zikh geshvind.
"Do shteyt dayn papa, tayerer,
A penele dir, na!"
A troym bavegt di lipelekh:
"O, vu iz, vu iz pa?"
Ikh blayb tseveytikt un tseklemt,
Farbitert un ikh kler:
"Ven du ervakhst a mol, mayn kind,
Gefinstu mikh nit mer"....

I have a little boy at home,
A pretty little son.
I think sometimes the world is mine,
In him my only one.
But seldom, seldom do I see,
My child in heaven's light,
I find him always fast asleep.
I see him but at night.
When I look at my little boy,
It seems the world is mine.
But seldom is my boy awake,
During my at during my at home time.
My job drives me from home at dawn,
I don't get home till late.
I don't know how my son looks,
For he's asleep by eight.
I hear how nicely my child plays,
And how sweetly he speaks.
He asks my wife when I'll come home
And bring him a small treat.
I stand beside his little bed,
And look at him with love.
I hear him ask me sleepily,
Oh where is my Papa?
I lean down and kiss his blue eyes,
They open briefly then.
My son then quickly turns away,
And his eyes close again.
Depressed and sad I leave the room,
And as I reach the door,
I think how one day when he wakes,
He'll find me there no more.
(translation arranged by Keith Kirchoff)


CHRISTOPHER BIGGERS is a composer and multimedia artist residing in Kalamazoo, Mich., where he is Assistant Professor of Digital Composition at Western Michigan University. Biggs’ recent projects focus on integrating live instrumental performance with interactive audiovisual media. In addition to collaborating with artists in other disciplines on projects, he treats all of his works as collaborations between himself and the initial performing artist by working with the performers during the creative process and considering their specific skills and preferences.

Biggs’ music has been presented across the United States and Europe, as well as in Latin America and Asia. His music is regularly performed on conferences and festivals, including the SEAMUS Conference, Visones Sonoras, Electronic Music Midwest, and Society for Composers Inc. His music is available on Ravello Records, Irritable Hedgehog, and Peanut Shell Productions.

Biggs received the 2008 Missouri Music Teacher’s Association composer of the year award, the 2009 SEMAUS/ASCAP first place award, the 2011 MACRO International Composition Award, the 2012 Issa Music and Dance Faculty Award, and a 2013 Kalamazoo Artistic Development Initiative Grant. He was a Preparing Future Faculty Fellow at the University of Missouri-Kansas City from 2007 to 2010.

At WMU Biggs teaches acoustic and electronic music composition, electronic music, digital media, and music theory.

He received degrees from American University (B.A. in print journalism), The University of Arizona (M.M. in music composition), and the University of Missouri-Kansas City (D.M.A. in music composition). He studied music composition Zhou Long, Chen Yi, James Mobberley, Joao Pedro Oliveira, Daniel Asia, and Paul Rudy.


STEVEN RICKS (b. 1969) received his early musical training as a trombonist in Mesa, AZ. He holds degrees in composition from Brigham Young University (BM), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (MM), and the University of Utah (PhD), and also received a Certificate in Advanced Musical Studies from King's College London in 2000. A “spotlight” radio interview and article on his music—Latter-Day Synchronisms—was published/produced by Frank Oteri on NewMusicBox and Counterstream Radio of the American Music Center. His May 2008 Bridge Records release Mild Violence has received numerous favorable reviews, including a five-star review in BBC Music Magazine. He has received numerous commissions and awards, including a 2010 Fromm Music Foundation Commission and five Barlow Endowment commissions. His music is performed by leading new music ensembles and performers in the US and abroad. Ricks is currently an Associate Professor in the BYU School of Music where he co-directs the Electronic Music Studio.

PAUL LOMBARDI holds a Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Oregon, and studied composition with David Crumb, Robert Kyr, Stephen Blumberg, and Leo Eylar. His music has been performed in more than 20 states across the US, as well as in other areas in North America, South America, and Europe. Recordings of his music are available from Capstone Records, Zerx Records, and ERMMedia. Many groups have played his music, notably the Kiev Philharmonic, the East Coast Composers Ensemble, Third Angle, and the Hundredth Monkey Ensemble. His music has been performed at national and regional Society of Composers conferences as well as numerous festivals. He is the winner of the 2011 Renée B. Fisher Piano Composition Competition, and has received commissions including one by the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium in honor of George Crumb on the occasion of his 75thSome of his scores are published in the 2011 Anthology of Contemporary Concert Music and the SCI Journal of Scores. Dr. Lombardi’s theoretical work focuses on mathematics and music, and is published in the Music Theory Spectrum, Indiana Theory Review, Mathematics and Computers in Simulation, and College Music Symposium. He has presented his research at numerous theory conferences, both national and regional. He was the pianist for the Hundredth Monkey Ensemble from 2000 to 2003, and was a soloist for the Siskiyou Community Orchestra in 1994. He is an assistant professor of music theory and composition at the University of South Dakota.

Born in Westfield, Massachusetts in 1938, FREDERIC RZEWSKI studied music at first with Charles Mackey of Springfield, and subsequently with Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, and Milton Babbitt at Harvard and Princeton Universities. He went to Italy in 1960, where he studied with Luigi Dallapiccola and met Severino Gazzelloni, with whom he performed in a number of concerts, thus beginning a career as a performer of new piano music. Rzewski's early friendship with Christian Wolff and David Behrman, and (through Wolff) his acquaintance with John Cage and David Tudor strongly influenced his development in both composition and performance. In Rome in the mid-sixties, together with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum, he formed a the MEV (Musica Elettronica Viva) group, which quickly became known for its pioneering work in live electronics and improvisation. Bringing together both classical and jazz avant-gardists (like Steve Lacy and Anthony Braxton), MEV developed an esthetic of music as a spontaneous collective process, and esthetic which was shared with other experimental groups of the same period (e.g. the Living Theatre and the Scratch Orchestra).

The experience of MEV can be felt in Rzewski's compositions of the late sixties and early seventies, which combine elements derived equally from the worlds of written and improvised music (Les Moutons de Panurge, Coming Together). During the seventies he experimented further with forms in which style and language are treated as structural elements; the best-known work of this period is The People United will Never Be Defeated!, a 50-minute set of piano variations. A number of pieces for larger ensembles written between 1979 and 1981 show a return to experimental and graphic notation (Le Silence des Espaces Infinis, The Price of Oil), while much of the work of the eighties explores new ways of using twelve-tone approach to writing can be found in more recent works (Whangdoodles, Sonata). Rzewski's largest-scale work to date is The Road: an eight book “novel” for piano lasting just under ten hours. Rzewski has appeared as pianist on the Vanguard, Col Legno, ART, and Nonesuch labels.

From 1977-2003 Rzewski was a Professor of Composition at the Conservatroire Royal de Musique in Liege, Belgium. He has also taught at the Yale School of Music, the University of Cincinnati, the State University of New York at Buffalo, the California Institute of the Arts, the University of California at San Diego, the Royal Conservatory of the Hague, the Hochschule der Kunste in Berlin, and the Hochschule fur Musik in Karlsruhe.

Scores of Rzewski's music may be downloaded for free at,_Frederic


KEITH KIRCHOFF, who has been described as a “virtuosic tour de force” whose playing is “energetic, precise, (and) sensitive,” works towards promoting under-recognized composers and educating audiences of the importance of new and experimental music. An active lecturer who has presented in countries throughout the world, his recital programs focus on the integration of computers and modern electronics into a traditional classical performance space.
Kirchoff has played in many of the United States’ largest cities including New York, Boston, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh, as well as major cities throughout Italy, England, Canada, Belgium, Mexico, and The Netherlands. He has appeared with orchestras throughout the U.S. performing a wide range of concerti, including the Boston premier of Charles Ives’ Emerson Concerto and the world premier of Matthew McConnell’s Concerto for Toy Piano, as well as more traditional concerti by Tschaikowsky and Chopin. He has also been a featured soloist in many music festivals including the Festival de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, Festival Internacional de Müsica Contemporánea, the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS), Performing Arts at CAM (Chelsea Contemporary Art Museum, New York), the Oregon Festival of American Music, PianoForte Chicago, The Experimental Piano Series, Ives and His World, and The eXtensible Toy Piano Project.

Throughout his career, Kirchoff has premiered well over 100 new works and commissioned several dozen. As a strong supporter of modern music, he has worked closely with many prominent composers including Christian Wolff, Frederic Rzewski, and Louie Andriessen. As a lecturer, Kirchoff has presented seminars, lectures, and master classes on the music of the 21st century at many of the country's largest Universities. One of the nation's prominent performers of electronic music, his "Electro-Acoustic Piano" tour has been presented throughout two continents, and, together with the University of Toronto, co-hosted an international composers competition seeking music for piano and live electronics in 2010. The first album in his Electro-Acoustic Piano series was released by Thinking outLOUD Records in July 2011, and the second is due later this year.

As a composer, Kirchoff is equally comfortable in acoustic and electronic mediums. The 2010 Rozsa Visiting Artist & Composer at the University of Tulsa, Kirchoff has been awarded residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts, New York Mills, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and Wildacres, and has been a guest composer/pianist at several Universities including Brown University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Cal State, University of New Mexico, University of North Florida, and Brigham Young University. He has received commissions from numerous ensembles and soloists including Ensemble Mise-En, pianists Shiau-uen Ding and Kai Schumacher, tuba player Jeffrey Meyer, organist Matthew McConnell, soprano Christine Keene, and Telling Stories Music. Often performing his own works in recital, his music, which has been described as "hyperactive," has also been performed throughout the United States, Canada, England, Turkey, Holland, Mexico, Australia, and Germany by many respected musicians and ensembles including the California E.A.R. Unit, the Firewire Ensemble, mezzo-soprano Erica Brookhyser, violinists Carmel Raz and Stephanie Skor, cellist Alex Kelly, and pianists Albert Muhlbock and Mabel Kwan.

The winner of the 2006 Steinway Society Piano Competition and the 2005 John Cage Award, Kirchoff was named the 2011 "Distinguished Scholar" by the Seabee Memorial Scholarship Association. He has also received composing grants from MetLife Meet the Composer and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.

Kirchoff’s primary teachers include Dean Kramer, Stephen Drury, and Paul Wirth. He received his Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Oregon in 2003 graduating summa cum laude and then received his Master of Music degree at New England Conservatory in 2005. He has also studied composition with Michael Gandolfi and Jeffrey Stolet, and conducting with Richard Hoenich. In addition to his recordings on his independent label Thinking outLOUD Records, Kirchoff has released recordings on the New World, SEAMUS, and Zerx labels.

You can follow Kirchoff on Twitter @keithkirchoff, Facebook (, and learn more at his website:


Executive Producer: Keith Kirchoff
Mastering: Hollis Nolan

Ping-Pong Variations:
Recorded in White Recital Hall, University of Missouri, Kansas City. 2006
Engineer: Robert Beck
Mixing & Editing: Christopher Biggs

Recorded in de Jong Concert Hall, Bringham Young University, Provo, Utah. 2011
Engineer: Carlton Vickers
Producers: Steven Ricks, Keith Kirchoff
Editing: Carlton Vickers

Variants & Nocturne:
Recorded in Keller Hall, University of New Mexico. 2006.
Engineer: Manny Rettinger
Nocturne was previously released on Albuzerxque Vol. 26 in 2007 by Zerx Leisure Productions. Special thanks to Mark Weber for permission to rerelease this recording.

Mayn Yingele:
Recorded live in Brown Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston, Massachusetts.
March 27, 2006.

The Thinking outLOUD label was designed by Benjamin Buchanan.

Thinking outLOUD Records promotes and encourages the free distribution of its recorded media.



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