Boston-based pianist Oni Buchanan and poet Jon Woodward have commissioned Uncanny Valley, a 50-minute piece for piano and electronics from Assistant Professor John Gibson. The premiere takes place on Sept. 27 at the University of Michigan, with performances scheduled around the country this season.
The music serves as accompaniment and counterpart to a live reading by Woodward of his mind-bending new poem Uncanny Valley. This long serial poem is meant to be read out loud, with numerous optional repeats throughout the text. These repetitions act as accumulations of sound, maddening as well as hypnotic. Gibson’s piece provides a sonic environment in which the text floats freely, with its pacing determined by the performers. Digital samples triggered by the performers mirror and enmesh the piano and spoken text.
Oni Buchanan received her M.M. degree in piano performance from the New England Conservatory of Music, studying with Russell Sherman and Stephen Drury. Her discography includes three solo piano CDs on the independent Velvet Ear Records label. For her books of poetry, she is winner of the National Poetry Series, the 2009 Massachusetts Book Award, and the University of Georgia Press Contemporary Poetry Series competition.
Jon Woodward’s Uncanny Valley manuscript won the Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s 2011 Open Competition and is now published by the school. He has two other volumes of poetry published: Rain (Wave Books, 2006) and Mister Goodbye Easter Island (Alice James Books, 2003).