In 1985, while living in London and studying with the English composer Gavin Bryars, I was fortunate to meet the American pianist Yvar Mikhashoff, who was Associate Director and resident pianist of the Almeida Festival of contemporary music at the time. Yvar was a true character, larger than life, full of wit and energy, and known for his marathon concerts (“70 Works in Seven Hours from 70 Years” went one such recital!). We became friends, and before he left London, he asked me to contribute a piece to his ongoing “tango project”—127 tangos from 127 composers. When my Fulbright year in London was over, I spent the summer of 1986 in New York, where I composed my tango for Yvar: “Ms. Jackson Dances for the People.”
The “Ms. Jackson” in question is Janet Jackson, and my tango uses a tiny fragment of her 1986 hit “What Have You Done For Me Lately” as a motif.
Yvar Mikhashoff premiered the piece in September, 1986, in Aarhus, Denmark. Before his death in 1993, Yvar recorded many of the tangos he had commissioned. An album using some of those recordings, Incitation to Desire: Tangos for Yvar Mikhashoff (1945-1993) was released on New Albion Records in 1995. Yvar’s energetic physical performance of my tango on that recording is not surprising when you consider that, as a young man, he had been a professional ballroom dancer.
The work has since been performed by pianists (and at least one accordionist) worldwide. American Record Guide describes the piece as “dense, pushy” with “galvanic energy.”
Performed by Eliane Lust
Entangoed 2013 Pinna Records
Performed by Yvar Mikhashoff
Incitation To Desire 1995, New Albion Records, Inc.