Several years ago I was given a player piano and that’s how The Player Piano Project was born. I asked a number of composers to write new works or arrange old works for my new old piano. What resulted was an eclectic collection of 23 pieces by 22 composers from 6 different countries. (veronika krausas)
This project is dedicated with love and respect to James Tenney (1934–2006), whose uncompromising work as a composer, researcher, and teacher reflects his lifelong commitment to the exploration and expansion of perception. His integration of music, psychology, and computer science greatly enhanced the understanding of the relationship between technology and humanity, and his passionate curiosity continues to inspire new paths on the never-ending search. (note by Eric Smigel)
(NB: Individual Track & Composer Information follows the Introductory Essay)
CD INTRODUCTORY ESSAY:
In his first novel, Player Piano, Kurt Vonnegut describes a futuristic world in which computers and machines gradually replace human workers, who become either superfluous managers or passive consumers. At a critical juncture one of the pivotal characters, Ed Finnerty, manually and forcefully plays a coin-operated player piano that had been installed in a tavern for commercial entertainment. Finnerty’s defiant action reflects a central theme of the novel: how do humans maintain dignity when they appear to be superseded by machines of their own design? Vonnegut’s clever metaphor for the intersection between technology and humanity is the “self-playing” musical instrument, an ingenious mechanical device that has always affirmed the human presence.
The essential features of the player piano developed during the Second Industrial Revolution in the latter half of the nineteenth century. It is an ordinary piano equipped with an apparatus powered by compressed air, which is generated either by pedals or through electronic means. The “score” consists of a paper roll moving over a tracker bar—custom perforations in the roll direct air through specific ports, which then activate the corresponding striking action. Initially the instrument was viewed as a playful curiosity, but its popularity increased dramatically at the turn of the twentieth century with the boom in domestic music making and sheet music sales. The indefatigable songwriters and publishers of Tin Pan Alley provided an abundance of piano/vocal sheet music for a mass-market audience with an insatiable appetite for popular songs. Accordingly, the majority of the piano rolls sold during this period included lyrics, which facilitated the common pastime of family and friends gathering around the instrument to sing. After the First World War, the “Roaring Twenties” saw a prosperous economy that fostered a widespread indulgence in leisure activities and entertainment. The popular music of choice during this period was jazz, which was the driving force of an immense artistic development among African American musicians, painters, and writers known as the Harlem Renaissance. Optimism in American culture was pervasive: creativity in the arts flourished, the notion of progress seemed undeniable, and the benefits of modernism were celebrated almost universally as many enthusiastically embraced such technological developments as automobiles, radios, and telephones.
It was during this exuberant period of American culture that the player piano reached the height of its popularity—by the mid-1920s there were more player pianos manufactured than ordinary pianos—and the ghostly keys provided music for homes, hotels, cafés, taverns, and restaurants. In addition to serving as a prototype for the jukebox, the self-playing instrument accommodated music lovers who lacked either the technical proficiency or the musical literacy to perform their favorite works from printed scores. There was even a pedagogical advantage to the instrument: with the advent of so-called “reproducing pianos,” which featured full automation of tempo and dynamics in addition to pitches and durations, listeners could experience in their own home the subtle performance nuances of a renowned pianist or composer (many of whom were generously paid to endorse the instruments of a particular manufacturer). Player pianos, in other words, played a crucial role in the dissemination of both popular and classical music before the widespread availability of recordings. At the onset of the Great Depression, however, instrument sales diminished severely. The demise was due not only to economic hardship, but also to the rapid advancements in electronic sound amplification as evidenced by radios and phonographs, which soon replaced their furniture-sized counterpart as common fixtures in the home. While the commercial industry of the player piano never fully recovered as people sought entertainment elsewhere, the artistic potential of the instrument was about to be discovered.
In 1930 Henry Cowell published his influential book New Musical Resources, in which he calls for innovations in rhythmic relationships that would have been impractical from a performance standpoint, but that might be heard on a player piano. American composer Conlon Nancarrow responded to Cowell’s proposition by purchasing a player piano and a roll-punching machine, and setting to work realizing his musical visions in a performance medium that was not bound by the limitations of human performers. From the late 1940s to the early 1990s, Nancarrow composed over fifty studies for player piano, where he systematically explored a number of highly complex rhythmic and temporal procedures that have become models in the repertoire of modern music. Furthermore, several of these works were written in homage to the rich tradition of popular styles that had become associated with the instrument: in his most well-known studies, Nancarrow playfully incorporates boogie woogie elements from the virtuosic and rhythmically contagious stride styles of such pianists as James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, and Art Tatum. The animated brilliance of these performers served as an impetus for Nancarrow’s musical kaleidoscopes, the polytemporal and polyphonic nature of which clearly surpass the capability of a live performer.
The idea of composing for an instrument without a human performer became common in the 1950s and 1960s, when electronic music became a mainstay of avant-garde composers. (Nancarrow remarked that he would have experimented with the new medium had the technology been readily available a decade earlier.) The electronic music revolution radically altered the perception of music in general, especially with regard to aspects of time and timbre, and produced a vast array of new sounds and compositional techniques that entered the lexicon of modern music. Subsequently, many composers have adapted the enhanced vocabulary for acoustic instruments, and the technical capability of performers has improved considerably. Nevertheless, performers almost always remain a step behind the demands of the most recent expressions of musical complexity, and while digital technology has greatly enhanced the quality of recording, it is not yet capable of competing with acoustic sound production.
There has always been a close relationship between musical developments in electronic and acoustic media, and the player piano continues to envelope simultaneously aspects of both realms. The instrument boasts the temporal precision of electronic programming, which allows the composer to incorporate the pyrotechnic execution of highly complex rhythmic structures. More importantly, it maintains the rich timbre of the acoustic piano, a sound that carries with it strong associations with a continuously growing repertoire that encompasses a formidable variety of styles, ranging from the symphonic grandeur of Beethoven and Ives, to the lyricism of Chopin and Barber, to the whimsical eccentricity of Schumann and Satie, to the pyrotechnic virtuosity Liszt and Ferneyhough, to the jazz styles of Jelly Roll Morton and Cecil Taylor. It is an extraordinary understatement to say that composers who write for the player piano draw from abundant resources.
When Nancarrow selected the player piano for his legendary studies, it was in large part due to his advanced concepts of tempo, meter, rhythm, and polyphony that he would not have been able to realize in any other medium. 21st-century composers, on the other hand, not only have easy access to digital resources capable of realizing the most complex of rhythmic constellations, but they also have relatively little access to player pianos, which makes all the more interesting any decision by today’s composers to write for the instrument. The diverse collection of works on the present recording demonstrates that the player piano is still a viable medium for the exploration of new musical ideas, and that it warrants attention from contemporary composers of any style. These works are also a testament to the dignity of human creativity as expressed by Ed Finnerty in Vonnegut’s novel: in a world where computers and electronics are an integral part of daily life, the player piano remains a striking metaphor for the combination of technology and humanity.
This project is dedicated with love and respect to James Tenney (1934–2006), whose uncompromising work as a composer, researcher, and teacher reflects his lifelong commitment to the exploration and expansion of perception. His integration of music, psychology, and computer science greatly enhanced the understanding of the relationship between technology and humanity, and his passionate curiosity continues to inspire new paths on the never-ending search.
Assistant Professor of Music
Utah State University
COMPOSER BIOS & TRACK INFORMATION:
Composer, pianist and conductor Thomas Adès was born on March 1st, 1971 in London and has lived there since then.
Sursum: This is the first movement of a piece written in 1996 and entitled Traced Overhead. This movement is called Sursum and was adapted for player piano.
Clarence Barlow (1945) was born into Calcutta’s English-speaking minority. He studied composition and electronic music in Cologne, first using a computer as a compositional aid in 1971. He has taught computer music at the Darmstadt Summer Courses and Cologne Music University. From 1990-94 Barlow was the artistic director of the Institute of Sonology at The Hague. After sixteen years as professor of composition and sonology in The Hague, he was appointed Corwin Professor and Head of Composition at the Music Department of the University of California in Santa Barbara in 2006.
Kuri Suti Bekar was written in 1998 for the pianist Kristi Becker on her 50th birthday and consists of a Prelude and a Chaconne. The Prelude, lasting twelve seconds, is a sonic translation of the pianist’s name written in Japanese Katakana - the sounds ku-ri-su-ti bek-ka-(ro) - are the closest one gets here - the right hand plays ku-ri-su-ti and the left hand bek-ka-ro simultaneously. The Chaconne reveals ten successive ‘pictures’ corresponding to ten pages (at sixteen seconds each) of the score. A superimposition of these ten images mirrors a scanned photograph of the pianist’s face: the choice of pitches derive harmonically from Version 5 of the composer’s 1972 piece ...until..., which can optionally be played synchronized with the Chaconne. Another pitch source was the phonetic analysis of the three Bengali words Kuri (=twenty), Suti (=cotton threads) and Bekar (=unemployed), the title of the piece.
Joseph Bishara is a composer and music producer who has worked in a variety of media with a wide range of artists. He has scored several films including The Gravedancers and Autopsy, and also served as sound designer with John Carpenter on Ghosts of Mars. Bishara’s production work includes the cello rock band Rasputina album Frustration Plantation. He has contributed programming and sound design for artists such as Jane’s Addiction, Nine Inch Nails, and Danzig and has created sound for several installations with multimedia artist Tiffany Trenda. Bishara lives in Studio City, CA, and is currently producing the music for the upcoming horror movie rock opera Repo! The Genetic Opera.
Spectral Manifestation: An entity haunts this machine. It speaks through the paper roll, every perforation providing a glimpse into our world. With each note, each key, it sees you.
The music of Osvaldo Budón (Concordia, Argentina, 1965) has been performed by Ensemble MusikFabrik, Slagwerkgroep Den Haag, SchlagEnsemble H/F/M, Motion Ensemble, McGill Percussion Ensemble, McGill Symphony Orchestra, Duo Sheppard/Lanza, Perceum, Proyecto Aves Errantes, and USC Percussion Ensemble. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Universidad Nacional del Litoral (Santa Fe, Argentina), and Masters and Doctorate degrees in Composition from McGill University (Montreal, Canada). Since 2001 Budón lives in Uruguay, where he is active as a composer, researcher, educator and new music promoter. He teaches Composition and is the chairman of the Theory/Composition department at the Faculty of Arts of the National University.
Melodías para el fin de Pietro Crespi (2007): This piece consists of a series of short, yet dense, time-compressed “melodies”, whose speed often approaches the threshold of separate audibility. Each
one of these melodies is, to some extent, a self-standing structure, with a distinct combination of contour, tempo, overall length, and pitch content. The title refers to the musician of Italian origin, who, in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, arrives in Macondo to assemble a player piano in the house of the Buendía family. Melodías para el fin de Pietro Crespi is indebted to the music of Conlon Nancarrow, whose work I admire deeply.
Sound and silence are allies in the minimal yet intricate music of Lou Bunk. A native of Connecticut, Lou’s earliest compositions were noise improvisations, and four-track collage experiments. Educated at Washington University and Brandeis (PhD in Composition and Theory), he has studied composition with Eric Chasalow, Michael Tenzer, David Rakowski, Ladislav Kubik, Marty Boykan, and Yehudi Wyner. Lou has taught music theory and ear training at Boston Conservatory and is currently assistant professor of music at Franklin Pierce University where he teaches computer music.
Lou’s music is the recipient of several awards (SEAMUS Student Commission Competition, finalist; Irving Fine Fellowship for Music Composition; ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composers Award, finalist), and has been performed in the US and Europe; CCRMA, SEAMUS, ICMC, June in Buffalo, The Computer Arts Festival in Padova, Italy, an American Composers series in Trossingen, Germany, and the Zeitgeist Gallery. Some current projects include a new piece for solo piano, working with children in Dorchester on a Hip Hop Opera, a dissertation on the music of Morton Feldman, teaching computer music, and a rock and roll band called Shana’s Mango!
Player Piano (2007): druh-druh-druh-druh-druh-druh-druh-ddruh-druh-d-r-u-h-druh-druh-Plang-druh-ddruh-druh-Plang-druh-P-l-a-n-g-dr-Pl-uh-ang-druh-Plang-d-P-r-l-u-a-h-ng-druh-druh-PPPLANGDRUH-p’ling----p’ling----p’ling
Daniel Corral is a composer and performer from Alaska. He received an MFA from CalArts (2007); his teachers included James Tenney, Morton Subotnick, Anne LeBaron, Wadada Leo Smith, and Stephen “Lucky” Mosko. Daniel has had his award-winning chamber works premiered by ensembles such as the California EAR Unit, Aspen Academy Orchestra, and New Century Players. He also composes for theater, animation, dance, and film. He recently produced Emperor, a short silent film about Emperor Joshua Norton I, for which he both wrote the story, and composed the soundtrack. http://spinalfrog.com
Eraser grew out of contemplating symmetry, monothematicism, and simplicity. The musical material is reduced to simultaneous chromatic runs up and down the entire range of the keyboard. Concurrent runs happen at various speeds, intertwining to create a symmetrical web of sound.
A 2005 Guggenheim Fellow and recipient of the 2003 Barlow Prize, Brian Current has established himself as one of North America’s leading young composers. He lives in Toronto where he conducts the New Music Ensemble of the Royal Conservatory.
Banjo/Continuum is an adaptation of a movement from a solo piano piece composed in 2007. The original work made nearly superhuman demands on the musician, so I found it interesting to contrast it with a version for mechanical piano.
Chris Dench was born in London in 1953. After periods living in Tuscany and West Berlin, he finally settled in Australia in 1989 and currently lives in Melbourne. His works have enjoyed extensive performances, recordings, and broadcasts in Europe, Australia, North America and Asia over the past twenty-five years.
Pas Seul I: reading Takahashi: In 1978 I wrote, and in ‘93 revised, a set of three piano pieces that I called collectively the Pas Seul. Intended for the great Michael Finnissy to play, they were a direct homage to Conlon Nancarrow. When Veronika requested a player piano piece, I realised that it made perfect sense to adapt these pieces. I suggested abridging Pas Seul I, with the subtitle “reading Takahashi,” a reference to another brilliant pianist/composer, Yuji Takahashi.
Composer Tamar Diesendruck was born in Israel and grew up in the U.S. (B.A., Brandeis; M.A., Ph.D, U.C. Berkeley.) Her favored medium is virtuosic chamber music, although she has also composed solo, orchestral, choral, wind ensemble and vocal works. Her music is often characterized as having a wide range of expression; many works find common ground between disparate musical cultures. Performers include the Pro Arte Quartet, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Dinosaur Annex, Speculum Musicae, New Millennium Ensemble, pipa player Wu Man, and violinist Carla Kihlstedt. Supporters include the Guggenheim Foundation, Bunting Institute at Harvard-Radcliffe, Koussevitzky Foundation, Fromm Foundation, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Copland Fund, American Academy in Rome, MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Rockefeller Foundation.
Loom Study I for Player Piano: When I got the request for participation in the player piano project, I immediately got intrigued with the idea of writing for this robotic, virtuosic, mechanical performer. Imagining the possibility of utilizing any part of the keyboard in any order brought up the image of a loom. Ever since, I have been enjoying looking at textiles, learning about textile design and weaving; the player piano piece is a first study to come out of this.
Sara Carina Graef has been awarded the Northridge Composition Prize for her orchestral score, night shows to my eyes the stars, and the Premio Citta’ di Pescara Composition Competition in Italy for her piano solo, Nottanosti. She has held residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Ernest Bloch Music Festival Composers’ Symposium, and the Oregon Bach Festival. She received her DMA in composition from the University of Southern California, and is now an Associate Professor of Music at California State University, Los Angeles. In addition to her work in music, she serves as the Stranding Coordinator for the Alaska Whale Foundation — a research and conservation non-profit in Southeast Alaska.
Building 58 takes its title from Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano, in which machines have largely replaced humans in the work force. “Building 58” had been one of Edison’s machine shops in the 1880’s, and Paul Proteus, the engineer-hero of the story, secretly treasured this archaic building as an emblem of how far mankind had come in the subsequent decades, delighting in the non-stop bobbing, leaping “calisthenics” of the more modern machinery within an aging shell.
James Harley is a Canadian composer currently teaching at the University of Guelph. He obtained his doctorate at McGill University in 1994, after spending six years in Europe. His music has been awarded prizes in Canada, USA, UK, France, Poland, Japan, and has been performed and broadcast around the world. A number of Harley’s works are available on disc and his scores are primarily available through the Canadian Music Centre. He has been commissioned by numerous organizations in Canada and elsewhere. He composes music for acoustic forces as well as electroacoustic media, with a particular interest in multi-channel audio.
pLayer8 is a short work for player piano. The music is conceived in layers, at times as many as eight. The sections of the piece are delineated by changes in density, primarily, through adding or subtracting layers, and changing the speed of the basic rhythmic pulse. I hope there is a spirit of early jazz piano to the music, as one might have heard on a piano player in the day, even if there are no direct stylistic borrowings.
The primary focus of Sean Heim’s work as a composer has been to develop an imaginative personal language that strongly reflects the compositional techniques and aesthetic of his own western art tradition as well as the distillation and infusion of philosophical ideas and musical elements found in numerous indigenous cultures. His work has been performed to critical acclaim throughout the United States and abroad and he has received awards and honors from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, the American Music Center, The American Composers Forum and the ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Prize. www.seanheim.com
Elegant Cycles is based on a colotomic structure that gradually collapses and expands over the duration of the work. Within this larger framework lie five smaller cycles of distinct musical gestures, the distance between which also contracts and expands at varying rates in relation to the overall timeline. Though the work began as an aesthetic exploration into the possibilities inherent in Japanese Gagaku forms, in the end I began to see it in the same way that the planets and their satellites revolve around the sun — an expression of elegant complexity.
Jeffrey Holmes was born in Los Angeles, California, and holds a BM degree from the San Francisco Conservatory and a MM and DMA from the University of Southern California. His music has been performed at festivals in Darmstadt (Germany), Microfest 2003 and 2005 in Venice (CA), the Chamber Music Conference and Composer’s Forum of the East in Bennington (Vermont), and in venues such as Carnegie Hall (New York), the historic Dvorák Museum (Prague), and the Chapelle Historique du Bon-Pasteur (Montréal). He has received commissions, performances and awards from various groups including The American Composers Forum, ASCAP, The California Institute of the Arts Orchestra, Society of Composers INC, Piano Spheres, Society for Chromatic Art, Inauthentica, The Nimbus Institute, ensembleGREEN and others. His music is published by Doberman-Yppan.
Oro Supplex…, for player piano originated as a song for voice, chorus and piano that used an excerpt from the traditional Mass for the Dead as a text.
Oro supplex et acclinis, cor contritum quasi cinis, gere curam mei finis.
(I pray, supplicant and kneeling, my heart crushed almost to ashes; watch over me in my final hour.)
The text was selected to challenge and oppose notions of traditional religion, and was layered in various ways to distort the original meaning. This is not an attempt to honestly express, advocate or disseminate any Christian ideals or values. It could actually be considered more of a violent assault than any type of productive questioning. This piece is built of descending, non-octavating, whole-tone scales and utilizes numerology on various levels, most obviously manipulations of the numbers 3 and 6, and captures a dark, bleak sound world, devoid of virtue or salvation.
Composer Veronika Krausas was born in Sydney, Australia and raised in Canada. She has composition degrees from the University of Toronto, McGill (in Montréal), and a doctorate from the University of Southern California. Her works have been performed in Canada, the United States, Australia, Germany (at the Darmstadt Music Festival), the Netherlands and Romania. She has received commissions from Motion Ensemble, the Penderecki String Quartet, Continuum
Music, and Ergo Projects. Her chamber opera, The Mortal Thoughts of Lady Macbeth, was selected for the New York City Opera’s 2008 VOX Festival. Since 1998 Krausas has been producing multi-media presentations in Los Angeles that incorporate her works with dance, acrobatics and video. Her book of graffiti photography IN + ON is available at lulu.com. She is currently on faculty at the University of Southern California. www.veronikakrausas.com
White & Orange and Blue: These two short works explore the idea of rhythmic and melodic layering. White & Orange uses whole tone (white) and octatonic (orange) gestures above an accelerating chord series that increases in density. The second work, Blue, is a multi-layered re-arrangement for player piano using W.C. Handy’s arrangement of Earl Hines’ Boogie Woogie on St. Louis Blues. (Boogie Woogie on St Louis Blues, written by William C. Handy, courtesy of Handy Bros. Music Co., New York (ASCAP), International copyright secured EMI Music Publishing, London, England)
Gordon Monahan’s works for piano, loudspeakers, video, kinetic sculpture, and computer-controlled sound environments span various genres from avant-garde concert music to multi-media installation and sound art. He juxtaposes the quantitative and qualitative aspects of natural acoustical phenomena with elements of media technology, environment, architecture, popular culture, and live performance.
He was born in Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 1956. He studied physics at the University of Ottawa and piano and composition at Mt. Allison University. Since 1978 he has created sound installations and performances at venues such as The Kitchen, The Walker Art Center, Donaueschinger Musiktage, and the Sony Center, Berlin. In 1992 he was artist in residence with the D.A.A.D. program in Berlin. He has also composed music for the Montreal-based Coleman-Lemieux Dance Company and soloist Margie Gillis.
Just Another Turkey Track Horizon (2004) was composed for a performance of the Coleman-Lemieux Dance Company in Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan. A very large sound system was placed in the old abandoned ranch house with the windows opened so the sound could be heard emanating from the house at quite a distance away. The piece is a mixture of musical styles, and included composing this piece in a rather schmaltzy, romantic style. The contour of the piece reflects the dramatic landscape one encounters in southern Saskatchewan, where the Badlands extend north across the border from Montana. Turkey Track is the name of a pass joining Montana and Saskatchewan where cowboys would round up their cattle.
Shaun Naidoo’s music has been performed throughout the US, Europe, South Africa and Australia. Born in Ladysmith, South Africa in 1962, his extremely varied compositional output includes numerous electroacoustic works, such as the acclaimed Bad Times Coming and Waking in the Dirt, both of which can be found on New World Records. In 2004 his CD Smoke and Mirrors was released by Evander Music (Oakland, CA). His most recent CDs Electric Fences (2005) — featuring the Oregon based ensemble FearNoMusic, and Fiat Lux — Selected ElectroAcoustic Works 1996–2007 — can be found on Capstone Records (NY).
Wallah: NOUN: 1. One employed in a particular occupation or activity: a kitchen wallah; rickshaw wallahs. 2. An important person in a particular field or organization: “the Ritz, a favorite haunt of Republican wallahs” (John Robinson). ETYMOLOGY: From Hindi -vala, pertaining to, connected with. B-Sharp Wallah: Pertaining to and connected with B-Sharp. HISTORY: From Etude of Will: Etude 3 of Forbidden Etudes.
Larry Polansky (b. 1954) is a composer, theorist, teacher, writer, performer, programmer and systems designer. His interests include live interactive intelligent computer music, computer composition, theories of form, experimental intonation, and American music. He lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, is co-director and co-founder of Frog Peak Music, and teaches at Dartmouth College.
interloods from 3 Pieces for Two Pianos: These interloods, adapted by Krausas, are from my recent 3 Pieces for 2 Pianos (and optional interloods), a large work comprised of three longer pieces and many optional shorter pieces. It is written for Sarah Cahill and Joseph Kubera, and was commissioned by the Barlow Endowment.
Some of these interloods are from a series of works I call tooaytoods: two-second pieces which nevertheless attempt to explore an interesting idea, and even more, achieve some clear form. Although the titles are somewhat cryptic, there are two somewhat personal references included here. The first (Tenneytoodiii) is to my friend and teacher James Tenney, whose idea of statistical dissonant counterpoint I used, in a computer implementation in the composition of most of these short pieces. The second is that the piece entitled: viiitviiiiniiivii(ii)ivgp (tooaytood #15b) is in memory of the American and Vermont poet and writer Grace Paley, who passed away during its composition, and who is greatly missed.
Canadian composer and organist Julian Revie is a Master’s Composition student at Cambridge University, where he studies with Jeremy Thurlow, Robin Holloway and Alexander Goehr with the support of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust. His former teachers include Veronika Krausas and Samuel Adler. Julian began his piano studies at age five and his organ and clarinet studies at age ten, and he also later studied the carillon. His awards include first place in the Canadian Music Competitions in 1999. Julian holds a diploma in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, as well as degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics from Yale University and the California Institute of Technology.
Jam To-Morrow and Jam YESterday is a musical experiment in the directionality of time based on the Westminster Chimes tune and inspired by the White Queen, whose world, in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, moves backwards in time. The Queen tells Alice that she cannot have jam in this backwards world because “the rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday — but never jam to-day.” The piece consists first of a structurally reverse fugue — the development section, including a stretto, is followed by the exposition, going from six voices down to one. This reverse fugue is then followed by its retrograde where the individual components are backwards as the fugue progresses forward.
Canadian composer and violinist Marc Sabat (b. 1965) studied at the University of Toronto, the Juilliard School of Music, and with James Tenney in Toronto. He has composed concert music for various ensembles including traditional instruments, computer and electronics, as well as making sceneries involving sound, video and sculptural elements. His works have been performed at the 2007 Donaueschingen Festival, in Carnegie Hall, by the Pellegrini Quartet, Aki Takahashi and Rohan de Saram. He is currently writing a concerto for pianist Stephen Clarke and a chamber opera for Trio Scordatura, Amsterdam.
Sabat co-developed The Extended Helmholtz-Ellis JI Pitch Notation with Wolfgang von Schweinitz, and teaches courses in acoustics and experimental intonation at the Universität der Künste Berlin. He has recorded for various labels including mode records, World Edition and HatArt.
WAKE for JIM (2007) was conceived at the time I was working in Jim Tenney’s office at Cal Arts, thinking about his work and of course also about Nancarrow. It occurred to me that every dyad on an equal-tempered piano, if struck precisely together with equal volume, would produce some microtonal combination-tone and that by ordering these combination tones in an ascending and descending pattern one might be able to simulate the feeling of a continuous glissando. Of course, this idea is so closely connected to Jim’s way of imagining music that I could not help feeling it almost came from him, and so — “WAKE for JIM”. Dyads occur when the glissando (if it were heard) would first reach the respective sum or difference tone produced. Half of the combinations are heard in the rising part, the other half in the falling part. Once the piano roll was cut, we discovered that the very extreme notes in the bass and treble could not be played mechanically, so these additional notes are performed by live musicians along with the player piano roll.
James Tenney (1934–2006) was born in Silver City, New Mexico. He received his early training as a pianist and composer attending the University of Denver, the Juilliard School of Music, Bennington College, and the University of Illinois. His teachers and mentors have included Eduard Steuermann, Carl Ruggles, Edgard Varèse, Harry Partch, and John Cage. A performer as well as a composer and theorist, he was co-founder of the Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble in New York City (1963–70). He was a pioneer in the field of electronic and computer music, working at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in the early 1960s. He has written works for a variety of media, both instrumental and electronic, many of them using alternative tuning systems. He has received many grants awards, and was the author of several articles on musical acoustics, computer music, and musical form and perception, as well as META / HODOS: A Phenomenology of 20th-Century Musical Materials and an Approach to the Study of Form and A History of ‘Consonance’ and ‘Dissonance.’ Tenney taught at York University in Toronto, where he was named Distinguished Research Professor in 1994. His last position was the Roy E. Disney Family Chair in Musical Composition at the California Institute of the Arts. His music is published by Sonic Art Editions and the Canadian Music Centre. Recordings are available from Artifact, col legno, CRI, Hat[now]ART, Koch International, Mode, Musicworks, New World, Nexus, and Toshiba EMI, among others. (note by Lauren Pratt)
Spectral CANON for CONLON Nancarrow (1974) Nancarrow himself punched the roll for this piece on his custom-built machine as a favor to Tenney. The player piano is tuned to a low A (55 Hz) harmonic series, up to the 24th harmonic double high E. There are 24 voices in this canon—each voice repeats one pitch from the harmonic series 192 times (always increasing in tempo). After the 192nd repetition the voice retrogrades. The 24th voice enters precisely when the first voice is beginning its retrograde. The piece terminates when the 24th voice ends its forward motion creating an asymmetrical form. (excerpted with permission from “The Early Works of James Tenney” Soundings 13: The Music of James Tenney by Larry Polansky.) © Sonic Art Editions (BMI) - score available from Smith publications 2617 Gwynndale Avenue, Baltimore MD 21207.
Hailing from Cardiff, Wales, Ceiri Torjussen has been living and working in Los Angeles for the past nine years as a composer for film, TV and the concert hall. He has been commissioned by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Henry Mancini Institute, the Vale of Glamorgan Festival and his concert works have been performed and broadcast worldwide. In addition, he has a dual career as a composer for film/TV having scored seven feature films, an animated TV series (for which he was nominated for a 2007 Emmy Award) and countless other TV, film and commercial work. He has also contributed additional music to such films as Live Free or Die Hard, Scary Movie 2 and The Eye. www.ceiri.com
Raiders March: A “wanna-be” Indiana Jones in my childhood, it was natural for me to sing the action hero’s accompanying music whilst reenacting scenes from his films. John Williams’ Raiders March is a simple but masterfully constructed melody that served as excellent material for musical dissection and reconstruction. Thanks to the polyrhythmic possibilities inherent in the player piano, I have exploited the idea of the ‘great heroic theme’ gone awry. It is in variation form in which the march theme is approached from several contrasting angles, most of which seem to eventually fall apart: adventures which keep going horribly wrong. (Composed by John Williams, arranged by Ceiri Torjussen, Raiders March theme is published by, and used courtesy of Warner/Chappell Music Inc.)
Many of Gayle Young’s recent compositions use the texts of her recipes for food preparation as a structural device. This allows a degree of freedom to performers without reducing the complexity of the music. The text acts as a compositional algorithm to control transitions into different musical “gestalts” (different pitch organizations, for example) that form the overall structure of a composition. Young also plays two microtonal instruments of her own design, and writes about music and sound arts. She is the publisher of Musicworks magazine.
Forest is based on Forest Ephemerals: Four Flowers, my 2004 composition for solo piano in which parts of two pieces by Charles Ives (Two Little Flowers and The Concord Sonata) are combined with my text describing spring flowers. The rhythms are determined by the flow of the texts in the mind’s ear of the performer. Forest takes advantage of the player piano’s superhuman capacity by presenting a simultaneity in two sequences of registral shapes that move from the central areas to outer extremes, while also shifting in density as interval size and pitch juxtaposition are varied. Sections of the earlier piano piece are thus recombined in a randomized process provided by the unpredictability of the performer’s text interpretation and sequence juxtaposition.
The Player Piano Project is supported in part through Subito, the quick advancement grant program of the San Francisco bay Area chapter of the American Composers Forum, in partnership with the American Composers Forum of Los Angeles. www.composersforum.org