[alloy] liner notes to the album

"[alloy] began out of the desire to make something I would be proud of at home during the uncertain winter months of the coronavirus pandemic. With all live events cancelled, a pending presidential inauguration, and a pandemic with no certain end, this commissioning project became an oasis of sounds for me to detach from the hard realities of the world around us. The ritual of setting up and breaking down the total 67 nuts, bolts, rubber and plastic objects lodged between my 5-foot Cable grand piano became a new habit—one that replaced selecting an outfit, getting dressed, and leaving the house for the day.

"Each composer came through so beautifully, offering something unique and heartfelt with the fixed sound palette: from adding backtrack beats (in Aeryn Santillan's
distance.), to extended improvisations that guide the performer in and out of notated music (Marina Kifferstein's Then was now), to taking inspiration from a twenty year old past self (Alex Temple's When I was twenty I briefly dabbled in ceremonial magic).

"This is an album I will look back on fondly, because it had reassured me, through these challenging times, that art making and art makers are resilient and capable of making so much with so little."
(Shi-An Costello, April 2021)

[alloy] is a new works commissioning project, performed and recorded on a home-produced prepared piano setup (the same as John Cage’s 1948 Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano). [alloy] features unique and brilliant composers across the United States, and organized and performed by Shi-An. The project will culminate in a livestream performance on Experimental Sound Studio’s The Quarantine Concerts, and a premiere recording of all the works, to be released on Bandcamp on April 9th, 2021.

Again and Again, by Viet Cuong

Then was now, by Marina Kifferstein

Letter, by Dorothy Chan

distance., by Aeryn Santillan

When I was twenty I briefly dabbled in ceremonial magic, by Alex Temple

Moving Puzzles, by Danny Clay

Morty's Jam, by Michal Massoud

Integrity, by Mischa Salkind-Pearl



Aeryn Santillan (formerly Aaron Garcia) is a composer, guitarist, bassist, and label manager whose work is heavily influenced by the DIY punk scene and actively aims to blur the lines between band/ensemble and song/composition.


Aeryn performs bass in the New Jersey based, internationally touring screamo quartet, Massa Nera. Along with composer/guitarist Andrew Noseworthy, they co-founded this place is actually the worst, an experimental mathcore duo, and post-genre DIY label, people | places | records.

Aeryn holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Columbia College Chicago and a Master of Music in Theory and Composition degree from New York University. Previous mentors include Gabriela Lena Frank, Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, Marcos Balter, David Reminick, Drew Baker, and Ilya Levinson. Aeryn has been a fellow at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, Toronto Creative Music Lab, and the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music.

Aeryn enjoys biking, RPGs, and vegan tacos. They live in Jersey City, NJ with their partner and two cats.



A sound can evoke a time, a place, a cultural moment, or a worldview. Alex Temple (b. 1983) writes music that distorts and combines iconic sounds to create new meanings, often in service of surreal, cryptic, or fantastical narratives.  She’s particularly interested in reclaiming socially disapproved-of (“cheesy”) sounds, playing with the boundary between funny and frightening, investigating lost memories and secret histories, and telling queer and trans stories.

In addition to performing her own works for voice and electronics, she has collaborated with performers and ensembles such as Mellissa Hughes, Julia Holter, Isabel Leonard, wild Up, Spektral Quartet, the American Composers Orchestra, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  She has also played keyboards with the chamber-rock group The Sissy-Eared Mollycoddles, and made sounds using her voice, synthesizers and household objects with a·pe·ri·od·ic.

Alex got her BA from Yale in 2005, and her MA from the University of Michigan in 2007.  After leaving Ann Arbor, she spent two years working for the New York Youth Symphony’s Making Score program for young composers.  In 2017 she completed a DMA at Northwestern, and she is now an Assistant Professor of Composition at Arizona State University.


Danny Clay is a composer and teaching artist whose work is deeply rooted in curiosity, collaboration, and the sheer joy of making things with people of all ages and levels of artistic experience.

Working closely with artists, students, and community members alike, he builds worlds of inquiry, play, and perpetual discovery that integrate elements of sound, movement, theater, and visual design. Children's games, speculative systems, cognitive puzzles, invented notation, found objects, imaginary archives, repurposed media, micro-improvisations, and happy accidents all make frequent appearances in his projects.

Recent collaborators include Kronos Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, Third Coast Percussion, Volti,  the San Francisco Girls Chorus, Wu Man, Sarah Cahill, Phyllis Chen, and printmaker Jon Fischer. His work has been performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (SFCMP), Ensemble Dal Niente, and has been presented by the deYoung Museum, San Francisco Performances, the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts at the Minnesota Street Project, the Grey Area Foundation for the Arts, the Meaney Center for the Arts in Seattle, and university programs throughout the United States.


Dorothy is a New York-based pianist, composer, improviser, and educator. 


A new-music advocate, she enjoys exploring experimental repertoire and new sounds on the piano, prepared piano and toy piano. She is the founding member of toy piano electronic duo Chromic, and chamber collective ensemble mise-en, and has premiered, performed and recorded hundreds of new works. Past appearances include performances at Carnegie Hall (New York, USA), Roulette Medium (New York, USA), Bösendorfer Saal (Vienna, Austria), BEXCO (Busan, Korea), Kapellet Produktion (Stockholm, Sweden), and at music festivals such as SXSW (Austin, USA), Moving Sounds Festival (New York, USA), Gaida Festival (Vilnius, Lithuania), and the Arena Festival (Riga, Latvia). 


Dorothy values promoting and collaborating with multidisciplinary artists and composers for new projects and premieres, to create programs that are responsive yet intimately reflective. Recent collaborations include installations at the Design Museum of Chicago, FigmentNY on Governors Island and Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, with the support from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Chamber Music America, the Brooklyn Arts Council, and the Barlow Endowment. 


Dorothy has also maintained a teaching studio for more than ten years, organizing group classes and recitals along with individual piano instruction. Dorothy received degrees from Manhattan School of Music (M.M. Piano Performance), and University of Urbana-Champaign (B.M. Piano Performance with Highest Honors and Bronze Tablet, minor in percussion and business), under the tutelage of the late Zenon Fishbein and Dr. Timothy Ehlen.



Marina Kifferstein is a violinist and composer based in NYC. Equally comfortable in major international venues and DIY spaces, she enjoys a diverse career that encompasses contemporary chamber music, improvisation, classical performance, and more. She is a founding member of TAK ensemble and The Rhythm Method string quartet, and is a regular guest with the International Contemporary Ensemble, Wet Ink, and Talea. She has performed at major international festivals including the Lincoln Center Festival (NYC), the Musiques Démesurées festival (Clermont-Ferrand, France), and the Time of Music Festival (Finland), and toured across much of Europe, Asia, and North America. A frequent guest artist at the Lucerne Festival (Switzerland), she has toured with affiliated projects spanning traditional chamber music, experimental music-theater for young audiences, and concertmaster positions with the orchestra of Lucerne Festival Alumni, performing under Sir Simon Rattle and the late Pierre Boulez. A dedicated performer of contemporary repertoire, Marina has collaborated closely with hundreds of composers ranging from students and emerging artists to established masters. She has conducted residencies at music programs across the country and in Europe, including at Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, the Delian Academy in Greece, and the Zürich Hochschule der Künste, working with performers, composition students, and non-music majors alike.

Marina is currently pursuing a doctorate at the CUNY Graduate Center. She holds an MM in Contemporary Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, a BM in Violin from Oberlin Conservatory, and a BA in English from Oberlin College. She serves on the violin faculty of the United Nations International School and the Composers Conference. Major teachers include Mark Steinberg, Laurie Smukler, Curtis Macomber, and Milan Vitek. For more information, visit www.marinakifferstein.com.  



Michal Massoud is a musician, podcaster, and teacher, currently based in New York City. He splits his musical activities between composing, conducting, and performing on the oud, a Middle Eastern string instrument popular in Michal’s native Lebanon. He is the co-artistic director and co-founder of Amalgama, a contemporary music ensemble dedicated to integrating fully notated music and free improvisation. Michal is a full-time music teacher at Harbor Charter School in East Harlem, as well as teaching online private lessons in composition, theory, and ear training. He is also the host of The Movers and Makers Podcast, a podcast of interviews, conversations, and debates, with people who make things.


Mischa Salkind-Pearl's music has been performed by ensembles around the U.S., Japan, Germany, and Italy. Boston Classical Review named his opera, Troubled Water, (September 2015, Guerilla Opera) the Best Premiere of 2015. Recent and upcoming projects include a fellowship to attend the 2017 International Gugak Workshop in Seoul, an ongoing collaboration with Boston-based artist Nathalie Miebach, and a commission for a second opera for Guerilla Opera. Ensembles and soloists he has composed for include ensemble mise-en, Philipp Stäudlin, Tony Arnold, Lilit Hartunian, Transient Canvas, Diagenesis Duo, and Callithumpian Consort. His work, A Poppy of Erasure, was included in the exhibition "Intersections: Masters of Line and Space" at the Akron Art Museum. Mischa is founder and board member of Boston's Equilibrium, an ensemble that presents concerts highlighting the music of Boston's diverse contemporary music community. He is Assistant Professor of Core Studies and English as a Second Language at Boston Conservatory at Berklee. His music can be heard on Ludovico Ensemble's portrait CD of his work, I Might Be Wrong, on Transient Canvas’s Wired, and on Chen Li Music's 2017 CD, Pluralities. He is composer-in-residence for the Ludovico Ensemble.


Called “alluring” and “wildly inventive” by The New York Times, the “irresistible” (San Francisco Chronicle) music of American composer Viet Cuong has been commissioned and performed on six continents by musicians and ensembles such as Sō Percussion, Eighth Blackbird, Alarm Will Sound, New York Philharmonic, PRISM Quartet, Albany Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and Minnesota Orchestra, among many others. Viet’s music has been featured in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center, and his works for wind ensemble have amassed hundreds of performances worldwide. Passionate about bringing these different facets of the contemporary music community together, his upcoming projects include a concerto for Eighth Blackbird with the United States Navy Band. Viet also enjoys exploring the unexpected and whimsical in his music, and he is often drawn to projects where he can make peculiar combinations and sounds feel enchanting or oddly satisfying. His recent works thus include a snare drum solo, percussion quartet concerto, and a double oboe concerto. Currently the California Symphony’s 2020-2023 Young American Composer-in-Residence, Viet holds degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music (AD), Princeton University (MFA), and Peabody Conservatory (BM/MM).


"[alloy] is remarkable in its curation: there truly is something for everyone–at least as far as fans of contemporary classical music go–but there are also pieces that warrant a broader appeal. Each composer featured across the album has an entirely different approach to writing for the prepared piano, but Costello has done an amazing job of performing the music in a way that is faithful to the compositions while sequencing the tracks in a cohesive manner and creating a musical through-line. At the risk of putting too fine a point on it, the title really is appropriate–[alloy] is not just an outstanding collection of individual works, but when taken in as a whole, it works on an even greater level."


Greg Nahabedian, I CARE IF YOU LISTEN

(full article here)