The Untuned Piano
2020 / An Vedi
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Untuned Piano is the fourth album from award-winning Russian singer/ songwriter/ violinist/ pianist /music educator/ conductor An Vedi, winner of the Elgar Medal (UK) and Akademia Music Award (February 2020), member of the International Singer-Songwriters Association, associate member of The Boston New Music Initiative, and member of The International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers, to name a few. She is also the first-ever Russian member of The Indie Collaborative in the USA.
The eleven original songs on the album are sung in English (with a heavy Russian accent), and the accompanying instrumentation is the“untuned piano” of the title. The songs encompass an interesting combination of music genres from classical to pop, and Vedi’s voice ranges from operatic to pop to more experimental (art songs) depending on the style of the music and the lyrics. Vedi has composed music for other instruments with non-classical tunings and claims that an untuned piano has more expressive depth than one that is tuned with equal temperament. I can’t say that I agree with that, but the piano isn’t so “untuned” that it gives me chills. It gives the music more of an old-fashioned sound like the piano in a relative’s home that hasn’t been serviced for years. (As a longtime piano teacher, I’ve worked with a LOT of those pianos and am very fussy about my own!) However, I do appreciate an artist who blazes her own musical trails and creates her own unique style.
Most of the eleven songs are melancholy or bittersweet and are “about” the difficult search for true love. “Love and life as a sacrament” is the main philosophical idea of the lyrics, and An’s voice is passionate and deeply emotive. Almost all of the songs were recorded live without special sound editing, so the album has a very “live” feeling rather than an overly-engineered studio sound. It’s a very interesting and unusual listening experience! One note of caution, though, since I usually review solo piano and instrumental albums - this is definitely not intended to be background music or to lull you to sleep. There is a lot of variety from one song to the next and some of the lyrics are angry and hurt. (“You are the monster more than a man,” “What are you doing? Where are you going?” for example.) “We’ve Never Cried For Us” is dedicated to musicians and composers who recently passed away and expresses deep sorrow in an operatic way. Vedi’s voice alternates from a light pop style to a more operatic one in “A Lonely Soul (Apart From Me)” - almost a duet, although the voices don’t overlap at all. “If It’s Not a Trap” is sometimes a playful / sometimes more serious love song that could have come from musical theater. “Not My Lover” is darkly passionate with a beautiful, haunting melody, but the lyrics are very difficult to understand. “More Than a Man” is anger and heartbreak set to music - very dark and emotional.
So, if you are looking for an album that is on the more adventurous side, check out The Untuned Piano. I’ve never heard anything quite like it! It is available from Amazon, iTunes/Apple Music and Spotify.
November 4, 2020