With “blind”, Jean-Michel Blais has yet again found a simple, elegant way to warp the conventions of classical piano music. It’s a composition that serves as a summation of his output thus far: unlearning the past; adjusting to new contexts; proceeding blindly into the dark to find new forms of expression not found in the comforting light of what’s known.
It starts with the frailest of piano pulses — a melody that progresses like a pair of hands feeling around in the dark for solid reference points; beautiful, sure, but every bit as foreboding and austere. But as the melody begins to swell, an assured dynamism starts to creep into the composition. Disorienting electronic textures start to percolate, quietly dancing around the piano. Initially, it disrupts the delicate progression, until the two conflicting elements meld together in vibrant lockstep. It’s an adjustment akin to that moment in the dark when the iris pulls back on the pupil in order to draw in more light. What is at first dissonant becomes cohesive. As the electronic elements die out and the solo piano returns to close out the composition, the tentative walk in the dark changes from an ominous enterprise to a meditative venture into uncharted space.
Despite what its name suggests, “blind” is an ode to new ways of seeing.