Cello Solo for cello, 6' 1966
Klavierstuck 1-1 for piano, 8' 1967
Helix for quintet (s.sax, tbne, cbass, perc. + piano), 11' 1967
Der, Die oder Das Klavier for piano and film, 13' 1967/76
Beckenstueck for 6 amplified cymbals, 18' 1969
Klavierstueck 2-2 for 2 pianos, 17' 1970
Wege for amplified piano and 2 string instruments, 11' 1971
Cybernet I interactive analogue electronic environment 1971
Phase for orchestra (and live transposition/delay), 17' 1972
Cybernet II interactive analogue electronic environment 1972
Musi-ken for string quartet, 14' 1972
Klavierstueck 1-2 - constellations - for amplified piano and live elctronics, 13' 1973
Prototypen peripatetic music for 4 orchestral ensembles, 50' 1973
Liebeslied for orchestra and alto, 21' 1974
Solipse for cello and delay, 14' 1974
Spektra for 4 trumpets and 4 trombones, 14' 1974
Rondell for trombone and delay, 12' 1975
Resonanzen for 8 unconducted orchestral groups, 58' 1976
Lamina! for orchestra and trombone, 22' 1977
Isotrope for mixed choir, 15' 1977
Particles for 11 players, soprano and electronics, 17' 1978
Polymorph for bass clarinet (or clarinet) and delay, 12' 1978
Linear A for marimbaphone (and bass marimba), 10' 1978
Camera Oscura for 2 Tp, F.Horn, Tbne + Tuba, 12' 1978
Strangeness, Charm and Colour for piano, 2 Tp and Tbne, 13' 1978
Worldline for 4 voices (SATB) and live electronics, 27' 1980
Fluid for clarinet, violin, cello and piano, 17' 1980
Sub Rosa 4-channel electronic music (tape), 18' 1980
Step by Step...music for ears in motion real-time computer generated 3-dimensional sounds accomp. by 4 instruments, 26' 1981
Pixels for 2 flutes, 2 clarinets, 2 French horns + 2 cellos, 16' 1981
Tokamak for orchestra and piano, 32' 1982
Das Maedchen aus der Ferne for soprano, flute and piano, 10' 1983
Naiiri for amplified violin (or electric violin or viola), 17' 1983
SOUND=SPACE interactive computer controlled musical environment 1985
Infra for Ob, 2 Cl, Tp, Tbne, 2 Vl, Va, Vc + Cb, all amplified, 25' 1985
Copernic Opera for 15 dancers in a SOUND=SPACE, 70' 1986
Eichung multimedia for 3 instruments in a SOUND=SPACE, 45' 1986
Origo for Cl, Tp, Vc, Perc, Kbds, all amplified, 22' 1987
Sudden Adventures for 2 dancers in a SOUND=SPACE. 55' 1988
Head Pieces for 2 heads in a SOUND=SPACE, 35' 1988
Diagonal Flying for piano and live electronics (SOUND=SPACE System), 34' 1989
Suite for Piano 9 fractal pieces for piano, 43' 1990
Strange Attractor for computer controlled piano, 23' 1991
Chronik for 2 pianos, 2 percussionists and live electronics, 55' 1991
Maree for 6 percussionists and live electronics, 17' 1992
Cusps, Swallowtails and Butterflies 3 pieces for amplified cymbals, 4-channel tape and the SOUND=SPACE System, 55' 1992
Grand Unified Theory of Everything for flute, bass clarinet and piano,14' 1992
Inna Space 2000 for tape and the SOUND=SPACE System, 45' 1993
Angaghoutiun for piano quartet (pno, vl, vla, vc) 5' 1994
Amor for solo flute, 5' 1994
Quantum Leap for piano, 10' 1994
Dreams for children on violin and piano, 1'40" 1995
Lullaby for piano, 1'30" 1996
Sonnet for mixed choir (8-8-8-8), 12' 1996
Astral Shadows for 6 dancers in a SOUND=SPACE, 26' 1997
Divine Wind for saxophone quartet (S,A,T,Bar.) 9' 1997
Waiting for Rain for soprano, flute, violin, viola da gamba and 2 harpsichords 16' 1998
Cybersong for tenor and wearable electronics, 30’ 2003
Archimedes Fulcrum for Wind Orchestra, 7' 2016
Der, Die oder Das Klavier for piano and film - 1967
This work was composed as an alternative solution to a sketch for a work entitled Time for the End of Music for 5 pianists with chain saws. There was, however, no future for this piece, despite the fact that the pianists were allowed to wear protective clothing, face masks, heavy leather gloves and not even required to cut up pianos.
The original version of the work used slides for the visual material. Later, a 16mm B/W silent film - showing three stages in the life of a piano, accompanied by a pianist - was made by the composer in Italy in 1976 with the kind and essential collaboration and under the imaginative direction of Davide Mosconi, composer and photographer extraordinaire.
The first performance of the original version with slides took place in Madrid under the direction of Thomas Marco in 1969.
BECKENSTUECK for 6 amplified cymbals - 1969
Six cymbals of different sizes and complimentary timbres are excited by various materials - metal, wood, plastic, hair, cardboard, styrofoam - and amplified with three stereo microphones. The microphones pickup the total spectrum of the cymbals, especially the very low 'fundamental' frequencies which are usually not heard at all by the unaided ear.
The individual sounds and sound-complexes are embedded into ballistic structures, i.e. processes of accelerating or decelerating change in aspects auch as density, relative register, timbre, dynamics, articulation and movement of the sound in a stereophonic panorama. Each structure has an evolution that is characterised by three phases: rising (increasing, accelerating), level (steady, static) and falling (decreasing, decelerating).
Twenty structures based on different combinations and internal proportions of these three phases are superimposed upon a general rising-static-falling process of development. The sounds are distributed in space by a second musician according to instructions in the score.
The premiere of BECKENSTUECK was performed by Christoph Caskel in Darmstadt in 1970.The second and many subsequent brilliant performances throughout Europe and recordings for the WDR, Cologne and the Feedback Studio, were made by Rolf Gehlhaar, cymbals and Johannes Fritsch, sound projection.
KLAVIERSTUECK 2-2 - boundaries - for 2 pianos - 1970
The determinate and very familiar tuning of the piano, its predetermined and more or less invariant timbre, its fixed forms of attack and decay, the physical means and the mechanism by which its sounds are produced and its high degree of resonance are the main characteristics that define the instrument and and set strongly characteristic limits to any music composed for it. In this work I set out to explore the boundaries of these limits from the outside in and, wherever possible, to remain outside these limits as long as possible, searching for a music that seems to have abandoned its source.
In preparation, I began by constructing many different types of fundamentally formless (though structured) material - sounds and sound complexes, including mixtures of normal playing with "microtonal" harmonics and other "percussive" sounds on the strings - which I then related to one another by the processes of superposition and mediation. This process consists of a continuous development from one state or set of states to another on the principles of interpenetration and maximum contrast, both immediately consecutive and simultaneous. As a result, every goal of a process of transformation becomes the starting point of the process following it.
Klavierstueck 2-2 was recorded:
by Alfons and Aloys Kontarsky for the WDR, Cologne in 1972 and
by Stephanie McCallum and Robert Curry for the ABC, Sydney in 1997
WEGE for amplified piano and two string instruments - 1971
This composition stems from the time during which I was intensively studying complex natural sounds and noises and the interrelationships between dynamics, rhythm and timbre. The piano is amplified employing a special technique: magnetic pick-ups, like those used on an electric guitar, are mounted above the strings of the lowest octave. The dampers of only these 12 strings are raised throughout the piece. None of these strings are played; they simply resonate with the sounds of staccato chords played in the middle and upper registers. Supported by the bell-like resonance of the piano, the string players articulate a grand sweep of increasingly excited and complex timbes.
For a good performance it is recommended that the piano be completely wrapped in as much sound dampening and insulating material - lead sheeting, thick matresses, etc. - as possible, so that its original sound is completely suppressed and only its amplified sound is audible. The two string instruments may be amplified by air or contact microphones.
The title of the piece is taken from the German for "paths" or "ways".
The premiere and recording of WEGE - for the WDR, Cologne and the Feedback Studio - were made by Rolf Gehlhaar, piano and Johannes Fritsch and Joachim Krist, violas, in 1972.
Cybernet I & II interactive analogue electronic environments -1971/72
The CYBERNETs - sound installations consisting of a variety of acoustic feedback loops, piped-in sounds from the exterior world, small electronic 'instruments' and also some physical, amplified instruments such as very long steel strings stretched across the entire space, or enormous electro-inductively active 'thunder sheets' - were designed and developed in collaboration with David Johnson in the Feedback Studio.
An important aspect of the installations were the acoustic feedback loops, which were constructed to 'listen' to the space and to modulate the sound and re-inject it into the space. The sounds caused by these loops would not only slowly drift, modulating themselves, but would also be affected by the mere presence of people in the space due to the fact that the acoustic characteristics of an empty room are different from those of the same room with people in it, especially people moving about. Furthermore, a set of microphone 'telescopes' were used to bring in sounds from the exterior world, usually one channel of natural-animal sounds and one channel of human-machine sounds.
These installations, in which both the presence of visitors and their actions - in many instances just touching any one of the 'instruments' - would change the prevailing sound world or 'inject' new sounds into it, were extremely well received and, conceptually speaking, were the origin of my ideas for SOUND=SPACE
The first CYBERNET was installed in the municipal museum of Moers, Germany; the second in a large underground space in Munich during the '72 Olympics. Some of the elements of the CYBERNETS were also used to animate the sculptures and painting-environments of Mary Bauermeister in exhibitions in Cologne and Amsterdam.
PHASE for orchestra (and live transposition/delay) - 1972
In composing Phase, I concentrated primarily upon the interaction between timbre, harmony and rhythm, upon how a particular structuring of one would influence the perception of the other. Experiments with a variety of complex natural sounds and noises - in which I recorded the sounds and, by playing them back at extremely slow speeds, was able to analyse them into their components - led me to the initial concept for the work: a sequence of 'static' sound fields or 'blocks' which would be 'animated' in various ways.
This animation is carried out both by determinate, statistical or partly improvised means and involves processes such as the polyrhythmic articulation of the individual pitches which go to make up a 'block', the phase-shifting or transposed superposition - either instrumental or electronic - of a block with itself, the gradual and systematic transformation of the instrumentation within a block, the change of balance between pitch and noise in the overall tone content of a block, etc.
The result is a process of structural development of these types of subsurface "animations", in which the sounds, at one and the same time, are arrested in suspension and go racing by, and the ear gravitates towards their inner, tumultuous life. There is no development in the traditional sense; new sounds simply take over from old ones - no time for transitions - and every moment serves as a jumping-off point for the next.
The premiere and recording of PHASE for the Saarlaendischer Rundfunk took place in Saarbruecken in 1972 and was made by the Symphony Orchestra of the SR conducted by Hans Zender, with the composer operating the live electronics.
MUSI-KEN for string quartet - 1972
Scraping, scratching and rubbing resonant objects often produces concrete noises largely consisting of extremely rapid successions of partials of one or several fundamentals. The internal structures of these noises become clearly audible when one records them and transposes them several octaves downwards; they have characteristic articulations of pitch and rhythmic forms, many of which reminded me of already existing ethnic musics.
Analyses of such forms gave rise to the basic ideas and processes of this piece: an almost mechanical, unimpassioned sequence of deconstruction and reconstruction. Both "composed" and found sounds are subjected to a wide range of examination: they are analysed, dissected, slowed down, transposed, rendered static or they are constructed - "synthesised" - built up out of many small elements, layered on top of themselves, speeded up, made dynamic.
The title is derived from the German plural for musics.
MUSI-KEN was passionately premiered and recorded for the WDR, Cologne by the Gaudeamus Quartet in 1973.
KLAVIERSTUECK 1-2 - constellations - for amplified piano with live electronics - 1973
The structural ideas for this composition evolved from a study of a number of major constellations and from taking account of the fact that many stars which we assign as belongong to a group forming a constellation often lie very far apart from one another in the universe. Employing a vast variety of techniques of electronic production and modulation of sounds in this piece, it was my intention to establish connections between events and colours which were similarly very distant from one another.
The premiere and recording of KLAVIERSTUECK 1-2 was made by Harald Boje, piano, Elektronium and tape recorder, for the Saarlaendischer Rundfunk, Saarbruecken 1973.
PROTOTYPEN (prototypes) : peripatetic music for 4 orchestral ensembles - 1973
The originating idea was to disassemble a typical symphony orchestra and create a number of independent ensembles. Furthermore, every musician was to have a much greater influence over the evolution of the music than is the case in traditionally notated and conducted music.
This would require a composition in which the visual information transmitted to the musicians - notes, signs, gestures - which serve to synchronise the ensemble, is transformed into acoustic information and in which fixed, determinate forms are replaced by processes, in which each musician enters a continuous loop of listening - playing - pausing - deciding - reacting.
This type of "acoustic coupling" of the musicians is explored in PROTOTYPEN in several ways.
In TYPE 1, the sound events are prescribed in abstract form and the qualities that give them concrete form are desribed in a process, e.g. the musician decides when he will play, how loud, how long.
In TYPE 2, the sound events are freely improvised but because each event serves as the beginning of a chain of reactions to it, it determines the overall flow for a considerable time.
In TYPE 3, the processes of the above two are combined: the players begin with a prescribed event, yet independently, each on his own, and gradually become locked together in increasing dependence upon one another. As soon as total dependence arises, they gradually reinvent their independence, without rejecting dependence.
The performance: four ensembles of different instrumentation are placed into four separate yet contiguous spaces. Each ensemble plays either: each one the TYPES once or three different versions of only one TYPE. The audience is free to wander in and out of the spaces (or to straddle the border between any two spaces.)
The premiere and recording of PROTOTYPEN for the Saarlaendischer Rundfunk, Saarbruecken, took place in Saarbruecken in 1973 and was made by the Symphony Orchestra of the SR, rehearsed by Hans Zender and the composer.
LIEBESLIED for orchestra and alto - 1974
The work consists of several linked sections in which symmetries and asymmetries are explored from various points of view - harmonic, melodic, timbral, dynamic - and the attempt is made to relate everything to common centers.
Every aspect is explored from its opposite perspective, for example: the work itself is both symmetrical and asymmetrical, the disposition of forces is similarly both symmetrical and asymmetrical, the harmonic textures are symmetrical (harmonic/subharmonic) ones or asymmetrical ones (tonal/modal), the evolution of density is similarly symmetrical and asymmetrical, etc.
The alto sings a poem by Douglas Mellor
he lived in a city of bees
and his brother climbed a tower of clouds
his sister too had a lover
who moved and higher higher
made his day somewhere else
The premiere and recording of LIEBESLIED for the Saarlaendischer Rundfunk took place in Saarbreucken in 1974 and was made by the Symphony Orchestra of the SR conducted by Hans Zender, with Monika Buergener, alto.
SOLIPSE for cello with time delay - 1974
The cello is amplified and recorded and, at numerous points within the piece, played back after a 2 second delay to mix in with the live sound. The amplification, due to its microscope effect, makes the complete timbral spectrum of the cello, from pure pitches to very dense noises, equally audible. The short delay in the simultaneous playback gives rise to phase, pitch and rhythmic interferences creating chimerical timbres, microtonal intervals and lively continuous streams out of finely articulated patterns.
The title of the work is derived from "solipsism", the view or philosophical theory that the self is the only object of real knowledge or the only thing really existent.
The premiere and first recording of SOLIPSE were elegantly executed by Siegfried Palm for Radio Bremen in 1974.
SOLIPSE was recently used in a film by artist Arshak Sarkissian
SPEKTRA for 4 trumpets and 4 trombones - 1974
Every complex sound may be viewed as consisting of a superposition of several simple periodicities. This perspective led me to SPEKTRA, where the same principle lies at the heart of each of the five sections: the values of all parameters are determined by single, or superpositions of several simple periodic processes. In this sense, it is a series of variations on a theme that never steps into the forground, functioning only as a determining and ordering principle.
The premiere of SPEKTRA took place in Witten in 1974 by an ad hoc ensemble consisting of musicians from the Symphony Orchestra of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk and was recorded by the WDR, Cologne in the same year
RONDELL for trombone and delay - 1975
The trombone is recorded live and played back twice: after a delay of about 3.5 seconds and a delay of 7 seconds, resulting in three layers. The score is based primarily upon many processes of expansion and contraction, each one concentrating for a while upon a different aspect of the musical material: pitches, timbres, register, dynamics, etc.
Due to the delayed playback, structures arise which are almost always symmetrical, grouped around a centre in patterns of superposition that seem to have been temporarily arrested but are actually continually shifting and unfolding.
The tile is derived from a contrapuntal musical form based entirely upon the exact exchange of melodic material between three voices, as described in the 14th Century by W.Odington.
The premiere of RONDELL took place in Amsterdam in 1975 and was performed by Jon English; the first recording was also made by him for the WDR, Cologne in 1976.
RESONANZEN for 8 unconducted orchestral groups - 1976
Similar to PROTOTYPEN, the mandate of the commission was to examine the traditional structure of the orchestra and how it influences and informs orchestral composition and performance practice.
An orchestra totalling 64 players is divided into 8 groups: four groups consisting only of strings and four groups of mixed wind and percussion. These 8 groups are spread out in a large circle surrounding the audience. This unusual placement of the players is crucial: as the timing, synchronisation and a major part of the content of the composition will be based upon an 'acoustic coupling' of the players and not by a conductor or a temporally fixed score, every musician must be able to hear every other musician sufficiently clearly.
The musical material employed has many different forms. There are sections that are completely notated, determinate, which are, however, played completely independently, resulting in a 'phase-shifting' of detail. There are sections in which each musician has a "nest" of events which he permutates, either independently or in a chain, relating or reacting to what a counterpart has played. There are sections in which the members of one group react to an improvised event played by another group, either individually or as a group. There are sections in which the percussionists - placed at the four cardinal points in the circle - play a major role in the global synchronisation of the musical flow. Each percussionist is allied to a wind group. They in turn react to each attack of the percussionist, either starting to play or stopping something they are playing, or changing the quality or tempo of what they are playing,... and so forth.
The master 'score' of the piece consists of 16 sections. It emerges from a single homogeneous mass sound, gradually branching out to a point in which all 8 groups are independent, and arrives at a point where only one group predominates for a considerable time. This forms the 'middle' of the piece, after which the process reverses again and returns to a mass sound, but this time with every musician playing completely independently.
The listeners in the centre of the circle - also able to hear almost everyone equally well - must find their way, employing their ears like a compass: directional hearing is of utmost importance. The concentration must be guided, from one momentraily predominating group to the next as well as towards the overall sound. The immersion in such a large acoustic space often filled with a complexity of highly volatile and colourful sound tends to make RESONANZEN as much a challenge for the listener as it is for the performers.
The premiere and recording of RESONANZEN for the Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Cologne, took place in Cologne in 1976 and was made by the Symphony Orchestra of the WDR, rehearsed by Lukas Vis and the composer
LAMINA! for orchestra and trombone - 1977
The fundamental formal concept of LAMINA is derived from the possible relationships between the two sets of opposites: mass and point, layers and line. The soloist functions as the central point-line of these relationships in a harmonic/melodic process that sounds out the range of possibilities from vertical/horizontal, fixed/static to free/dynamic.
There are sections in the work where the soloist conducts a large part of the orchestra, gradually handing them back to the conductor, as well as sections where he provides the sound material which the orchestra imitates, absorbs or transforms, either as individuals or as a group, in a process of structured improvisation
The premiere and recording of LAMINA - for the Saarlaendischer Rundfunk, Saarbruecken - was made by A.Rosin, trombone, with the Orchestra of the SR, conducted by Hans Zender in 1977.
PARTICLES for 11 players, soprano and electronics - 1978
The course of events in this work is determined by the relationships between a fundametally static set of structures. 12 different interval fields are mapped onto 4 different sets 'articulation', resulting in the 48 different 'substructures', the 'particles' of the work.
The other prime characteristics of each 'particle' such as loudness, density, duration and timbre are governed by a single set of static or dynamic rules, four in all, which relate the particles to one another via processes of transformation:
1) a particle may suddenly transform itself into its anti-particle: the values of all parameters are inverted;
2) a particle may collide with another: some of the parameter-values are exchanged;
3) a particle may be absorbed by another: all parameter-values are added and displayed by the absorbing particle;
4) a particle may simply decay: the values of all parameters are inverted, static values become dynamic, dynamic values are arrested, becoming static.
The final ordering of the 47 audible interactions between the 48 particles was determined by the simple rule that a particle can only be subjected to any interaction which leaves it with a final set of parameter values (e.g. duration, pitch, loudness) lying within the domain of the possible. In the course of all the interactions, every parameter reaches every one of its possible values only once; an interaction between particle number 48 and number 1 is implied.
The premiere of PARTICLES was performed by the Ensemble 2e2m, by whom it was commissioned, conducted by Paul Mefano, and took place in Paris in 1978, where it was recorded by the ORTF.
POLYMORPH for bass clarinet (or clarinet) and delay - 1978
The work consists of a sequence of 4 times 4 structures, of which each group of 4 concentrates on change in one or a different combination of the following parameters: pitch, dynamic shape (envelope), linear density and verical density. Each of the structures is constructed by relying upon the same exhaustive sequence of combinations of the following kinds of change in the above parameters: rising (increasing), static, or falling (decreasing).
Selective use of the delay, operated by the player in the course of the performance, allows for the construction of further combinations, depending upon the number of layers employed and how the interval of entry between the layers - in this case 3 seconds - is subdivided; out of the total of 16 structures, 4 structures have only onelayer, 4 structures have 2 layers and 8 have 3 layers.
The premiere of POLYMORPH was performed by Harry Spaarnay and took place in Amsterdam 1977, where it was recorded by the NOS.
POLYMORPH was recently used in a film by artist Arshak Sarkissian
LINEAR A for marimbaphone (and bass marimba) - 1978
This is one of my earliest computer-aided compositions. For it, I devised computer program which generated the entire harmonic structure 'out of time' (independent of any durations): four different simultaneous, linear, cyclical interval progressions. Each progression also exists in a second version in which the octave placement of the pitches was also subjected to a cyclical progression.
This deterministic pitch/harmonic structure - a quasi-sequence of 8-note 'chords' - was then 'viewed' through five independent 'windows', each window periodically opening and closing for different lengths of time and at a different rate. There are times when only one or two windows are open, times when all windows are open, as well as times when none are open.
Each window imposes its own characteristic durations and articulations upon the pitches viewed through it. The rate at which the windows open and close and the length of time each window is open was chosen in such a way as to create a complex multi-stranded musical flow in which, although all strands are not audible all the time, one always senses their presence and continued development.
The premiere of LINEAR A was performed by Michiko Takahashi, who commissioned the work, in Darmstadt 1978, where it was recorded by the Internationale Musikinstitut Darmstadt.
CAMERA OSCURA for 2 trumpets, French horn, trombone & tuba - 1978
This work represents an extreme reduction of means as the consequence of a structural idea: a musical structure in which all parameters may be experienced as equally significant, i.e. in which there is no hierarchy. The requirements of such a structure are very stringent: all parameters must be treated according to the same principles, no repetition of any kind is possible, time must be treated as a single 'sealed' moment since the perception of a 'before-now-after" already corresponds to a temporal hierarchy.
The fundamental problem is twofold: design a structure which, initself is absolutely and always unique, and expand the 'present' into a continuous self-suffcient musical statement. The work present three different approaches to the problem.
The premiere of CAMERA OSCURA was performed by the ensemble 20th Century Brass, who commissioned the work, in Saarbruecken in 1978, where it was recorded by the Saarlaendische Rundfunk.
STRANGENESS, CHARM and COLOUR for piano, 2 trumpets and trombone - 1978
'Strangeness', 'charm' and 'colour' are several of the quantum characteristics of subatomic particles - quarks - which are called upon in order to explain their behaviour and predict their combination into larger particles according to previously accepted theory and observation. None of these terms has any connection with its conventional meaning; they are arbitrary labels.
The composition consists of a sequence of 27 structures (3 x 3 x 3) of varying degrees of interrelationship, the most fundamental one being that in all of them, the beginning (attack) is generally provided by the piano, the middle (sustain) by the trombone, and the end (decay) by the trumpets. Some structures of greater complexity, consisting of several simulteneous layers, have multiple attack-sustain-decay functions occurring throughout their lifetimes.
Every aspect of the structures - parameters such as duration, linear density (speed), vertical density (number of sounds at a given moment) intensity (loudness), degree of randomness, etc. - is determined by an exponential scale of values. This leads to a tendency for the values to grow very rapidly toward extreme quantities. Due to this extremeness, parameters tend to function relative to one another, that is, our experience of the musical flow becomes a relativistic one, dominated by that parameter which we happen to perceive as functioning in the foreground.
STRANGENESS, CHARM and COLOUR was commissioned by Roger Woodward and premiered by him, with the Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble, in London in 1978. It was subsequently taken on a CMN tour of the UK, where it was recorded several times.
WORLDLINE for 4 voices (SOPRANO ALTO TENOR BASS) and live electronics -1980
Although the source of the sounds in this composition is the voice, a simple yet sophisticated combination of small electronic devices - a ringmodulator, a band-pass filter and a short digital delay line - through which all the sounds must pass before they are heard, allows a focussing on all aspects to such a degree that a kind of 'microsurgery' can be performed upon them. Even the minutest details can be exploited structurally. In the original version, the singers themselves operate the electronic devices (designed and built by Ian Macintosh and the composer) during the performance; only the distribution of the sounds in space is carried out by the sound projectionist
In order to take full advantage of the modulating possibilities, a very comprehensive and generally abstract palette of vocal sounds is employed, although occasionally text fragments taken from theoretical work in the field of space-time physics, emerge from the context. The piece itself develops in a continuity of gradually unfolding timbres and textures, drawing lines which, on the distant horizons, converge on our memories, smooth and well-worn like pebbles.
WORLDLINE was commissioned by Electric Phoenix and premiered in London in 1980. It was subsequently taken on a CMN tour of the UK, where it was recorded several times, also by the BBC.
FLUID for clarinet, violin, cello and piano - 1980
"... flow, run, meander, gush, pour, spout, roll, jet, well, issue, drop, drip, dribble, spash, squirt, surge, swell, ripple, spurt, squirt, spout, splash, swash, rush, eddy, gurge, trill, trickle, gurgle, murmur, babble, bubble, guggle, sputter, splatter, billow, surge, sewll, ripple, calm...."
FLUID was composed with the aid of a computer employing algorithmic modelling derived from that branch of physics known as fluidynamics. The programmes generated groups of pitches whose movement represents the movement of molecules within confined spaces and clearly defined energy gradients, very much like the way a small stream of water navigates obstructions on its way downhill. Because the steepness of the descent and the hardness of the obstructions are the major factors in determining the shape of the stream, the computer modelling concentrated primarily on these two aspects.
The work was commissioned by Lise-Martine Jeanneret-Oxman who, unfortunately, due to a prolonged illness, could not premiere it. It was finally first performed and recorded by the Ensemble 2e2m in Paris under the direction of Paul Mefano in 1983.
SUB ROSA 4-channel electronic music on tape - 1980
This composition is based upon an examination of the physical interaction of various types of sound signals. Its structure and organisation emerge primarily from the totality of these subsurface interactions. The fundamental process involved is that of interference patterening, brought about by a very slight but repeated variable phase shifting of a signal with respect to itself or by superposing many frequencies that are only very slightly out of unison.
These kinds of interactions, taking place beneatch the 'surface' of the sounds, can give rise to completely new sounds as well as complex and shifting timbral patterns, such as in moire antique, where the rhythmic patterning of the surface is produced in manufacture by the superposition through pressure of slightly misaligned parallel weaves.
SUB ROSA was commissioned by the Centre Europeen pour la Recherche Musicale, Metz, where it was produced in 1980; it received its premiere in Lille in 1980.
PAS a PAS / Step by Step... music for ears in motion
An environment of computer-generated 'three-dimensional' sounds created by the resolution of complex spectra through spatial phase-shifting: a report on research carried out at IRCAM 1979-1981
Normally, the position of a listener in relation to the loudspeakers affects appreciably only the qualities of relative loudness and brightness of the sounds heard. This research and development report describes the method of creating a sound which, in direct opposition to this, actually changes in pitch according to the position and movement of the listener in the acoustical space: a static, unchanging complex sound, rather like an object standing in space, whose individual components are audible only at certain well-defined points in an acoustical landscape. This landscape is to be traversed by the listener, searching out those components, in a process of interactive listening.
PIXELS for 8 instruments: 2 quartets of flute, clarinet, French horn & cello - 1981
In a fashion analogous to the way images are processed when they are digitised, an 'acoustic' image may be 'scanned' and reconstructed as a sequence of pixels, each having the same duration but its own particular 'shade' of density, articulation, timbre, loudness, interval field, register and instrumentation.
This approach served as the main point of departure in the composition of this work. I developed a series of interlocking computer programs which were structured to calculate the parameter values for density, articulation, timbre, loudness, pitch interval fields, register and instrumentationof 64 sections of equal duration.
Each section is assigned its own unique set of parameter values, the set belonging to a series of 'shades' of values as determined by a 'macrostructure program'. Underlying this program was a process of growth, decay and mutation governed by fluctuating statistical distributions somewhat analogous to the fluctuations in the conditions of the environment of a naturally developing organism.
Because the 'piece' was going to be generated by the computer according to statistical and weighted random distributions, leading to a possible multitude of different versions, I decided to generate two versions, for two identical groups of instruments, which would be played simultaneously. Thus the 'music' lies not only in the parallel, similar evolution of the events of each ensemble, but also in their differences. Sometimes these are substantial, but most of the time they are minute.
PIXELS was first performed and recorded by an ad hoc ensemble of the ORTF directed by Marc Monnet, in Paris in 1982.
TOKAMAK for orchestra and piano - 1982
A Tokamak is an axi-symmetrical toroidal vacuum chamber in which plasma is contained and brought to extremely high temperatures by means of interacting electrical and magnetic fields.
TOKAMAK for piano and orchestra is a composition in four parts of which each part represents a phase of a larger process. Described abstractly, it is a process of an assimilation of energy and mass, within well-defined limits, up to a critical maximum. The arrival at any critical maximum has one of two consequences: either the limits are transgressed, the matter is transformed by the assimilated energy and the process is begun again, at a higher level, within newly defined limits, or, the limits hold absolutely, the matter collapses, 'melts down' and radiating its accumulated energy, is reduced in mass, and the process is begun again at a lower level, within narrower limits.
The 'matter' referred to consists of interval fields whose register, density, articulation, speed, timbre and loudness serve as the objects of this interaction of forces. The planning and design of this process, as in most of my works since 1979, was carried out with the aid of a computer, implementing a personal technique of composition which generates models of musical structures. Output in various types of notation - numerical, musical, graphic -, these models are constructed by the computer according to sets of rules which determine the fundamental - genetic - characteristics of the intended musical process.
Consequently I was able to obtain not only reasonably rapid and accurate results on calculations involving quite complex interrelationships but also to generate numerous alternative versions of a partially indeterminate process composed of a probabilistic chain of causally related events.
The first version of TOKAMAK in three movements was completed in 1982; a fourth movement was added in 1987.
The first version was brilliantly premiered and recorded by Aloys Kontarsky with the Symphony Orchestra of the SWF, Baden-Baden, conducted by K.Kord, in 1983
Das Maedchen aus der Ferne for soprano, flute and piano - 1983
This work was composed with the aid of a computer employing a program based upon the re-representation of the Julia set of complex numbers, a program I had just begun to develop. The line for each instrument and the voice was calculated independently but employing a very similar set of x-y coordinates and resolution. The text for the work is the eponymous poem by Schiller, an allegory on the arrival of Spring.
The work was commissioned by an anonymous gentleman from Belgium as a birthday present for his fiancee, an amateur mezzo.
NAIIRI for amplified violin (or viola) - 1983
In several earlier solo works I relied upon the additional complexity of a live time delay to allow me to create a wider range of timbres and densities than were otherwise possible. In NAIIRI, however I decided to take another approach: simply to amplify the instrument, and by amplifying it, to expand the publicly audible sounds and timbres to the same magificent range that the violinist can hear while playing.
Consequently, this piece is an attempt to draw the ear away from the traditionally dominating foreground of pitch progressions, their histories and probable futures, to focus on a seemingly independent evolution of timbres arising from these pitches. A small amount of the pitch material was freely adapted from the liturgy of the Armenian Church, not note for note, but in spirit.
NAIIRI was commissioned by Haroutune Bedelian with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain. The first performance, by A.Balanescu, violin, took place as a part of the Nettlefold Festival, London in 1988. The second, remarkable performance by Darragh Morgan on an electric violin, took place London 2001.
INFRA for Ob, 2 Cl, Tp, Tbne, 2 Vl, Va, Vc + Cb, all amplified - 1985
While I was at IRCAM, Paris, carrying out my research project on 3-dimensional sounds (see PAS a PAS…music for ears in motion) I chanced upon another very interesting process of creating / modulating sounds: very slowly phase-shifting 256 oscillators all generating the same sound (the first 32 harmonics) at the same frequency. Over the period of time it takes all the oscillators to reach that point at which they are, for a very brief moment, all in phase, each of the harmonics is 'liberated' from the fundamental, is resolved as a sustained pitch fading in and out as often as its harmonic number. This led me to plan an instrumental piece in which I would incorporate an attempt to recreate this sound in as many different ways as possible.
INFRA was premiered at the Bath Festival by Lontano, conducted by Odaline de la Martinez, in 1985
COPERNIC OPERA for 15 dancers in a SOUND=SPACE - 1986
This represents the first project employing the then newly developed SOUND=SPACE with dancers. The system was set up to overlook the performance space and to react with sounds or chains of structured sound events to the presence and movements of the dancers. Two performances were given in 4 different venues, each venue being quite different in size and spatial layout.
The performance spaces were in most instances quite large. For the last set of performances, taking place at the Espace Nordin La Villette, Paris, the system employed 32 ranging units, enabling it to survey in substantial detail an area of almost 8oo square metres.
The premiere and first of 8 performances of COPERNIC OPERA, with equipment, programming and technical supervision by Philippe Prevot and the equipeof LIMCA, Auch, where the first version of SOUND=SPACE was developed and constructed, was performed by the Kilina Cremona Dance Company in Montpellier, France in 1986.
EICHUNG - singularity - multimedia for 3 instruments in a SOUND=SPACE - 1986
This composition was the first implementation of the original SOUND=SPACE as a specific 'performing' environment. The instruments involved were two clarinets and a trombone, all instruments that could be played while moving about. In the course of the composition, the players triggered specific sounds or controlled pre=programmed processes of sound transformation. The electronic musical material - created by the players through their movements - was either pre-empted or adopted by them on their instruments or it served as a vehicle for further instrumental development.
The layout of the ultrasonic ranging system was such that it created a number of different spatial axes, thereby allowing for a great variety of movement. A major portion of the performance took place in almost total darkness, illuminated only by numerous projections of astronomical photographs and small lights worn by the musicians, thus providing the visual world in which the music materialised and dematerialised.
The first performance of EICHUNG, with equipment, programming and technical supervision by Philippe Prevot and the equipe of LIMCA, Auch, where the first version of SOUND=SPACE was constructed, took place as a part of the Musica Nova Festival in Bremen and was recorded by Radio Bremen in 1986.
ORIGO for Cl, Tp, Vc, Perc, Kbds, all amplified - 1987
Similar in construction and origin to PIXELS, ORIGO was however, composed with the aid of a computer, using a program I developed especialy for it. The task of the program was to allo me to calculate a probabilistically determined number of attacks with similarly probabilistically determined distributions and durations within a fixed period of structured time : teen tal - 16 beats, with a more or less empty 9th beat. One of the challenges was to examine how much the probabilities could be changed, how much the temporal structure could be flexed, and still recogniseably maintain its characteristic structure.
HEAD PIECES for 2 heads in a SOUND=SPACE - 1988
After completing the new software for SOUND=SPACE in 1988, I started working on a number of new pieces which employed it as an 'instrument' to be used in performance in many fundamentally different ways. HEAD PIECES explores the possibilities of the system in which the performers have maximum control but move as little as possible.
The two-dimensional position and movement of only the head of each of the two performers is measured. These measurements are converted either into trigger values for specific sounds or into two independent values for 'activity' which in turn give the players access to structural controls over a composing algorithm.
The premiere of HEAD PIECES took place during the Nettlefold Festival, London in 1988, performed by Nouritza Matossian and the composer.
DIAGONAL FLYING for piano and live electronics (SOUND=SPACE System) - 1989
The title for this work for amplified piano and SOUND=SPACE is borrowed from one of the sequences of Tai-Chi movements and is intended to evoke its essential structure and fundamental resonance. Numerous harmonic and rhythmic phrases, stronly contrasted and individual, are linked by a strict combination of algorithmic transformation. These transformations are designed to bring to mind the motions of a pendulum whose initial motions are gradually - chaotically - modified by external forces.
Little by little the 'pendulum' traces paths which become increasingly complex while impressing on succeeding paths the the direction and amplitude of the new forces. Thus no specific movement is ever entirely lost but the most recent force exert the greatest influence.
The score consists of two parallel sequences of events - one each for the two players - notated in a combination of graphic and space=time notation. These events are interpreted and transformed according to a set of instructions governing the register, duration, the number of times an event is to be repeated and how the event is to be linked to other events in its immediate surroundings. Throughout the repetition of any event, special indications govern how it is to be transformed within itself - dynamically or timbrally - as well as how it must be adapted or transformed in relation to its environment. Furthermore, an event may gradually either absorb a previous event, come into being out of nothing, transform into the next event or decay into nothing.
DIAGONAL FLYING was commissioned by Roger Woodward for the Extasis Festival of new music in Geneva, where it was premiered in 1989 by Roger Woodward, piano and Rolf Gehlhaar, SOUND=SPACE; it was also performed by the same ensemble during the Sydney Spring in 1990 and recorded for the ABC
Suite for Piano 9 fractal pieces for piano - 1990
A friend of mine, Polly Hope - painter, sculptor and amateur pianist - asked me to write a piece for her, not too difficult. At that time I was experimenting with some composition software based upon Julia Sets and the Mandelbrot Set which had been developed by a colleague composer, Hugh MacDowall. He had asked me to tell him what I thought of his software. Thus the first piece of the Suite came about; it is the simplest and easiest of all the pieces, their complexity and degree of difficulty gradually increasing throughout the Suite.
The software basically translates any desired areas of the field of complex numbers that makes up the Mandelbrot Set into pitch and duration; the interval structure of the pitch sets and the durations that are to be employed can be determined by the user.
All but two of the nine pieces that go to make up the Suite were composed using this software. The focus in each piece is different: in some it is more on making the characteristically 'fractal' melodic evolution clear by placing it in relief, contrasting it to a quite simple, almost static harmonic evolution. In others, several independently evolving 'melodies' - generated by different subsets - are supported by a common harmonic texture. In almost all cases quite transparent harmonies are employed in order to allow the ear to follow the 'fractal' evolution.
Pieces No.3 and No.4 were composed with a different but related approach based upon the ideas of Catastrophe Theory, a mathematical theory of abrupt, discontinuous change.
The first performance of the entire Suite took place at CEM in Arnhem, Holland in 1991 and was carried out by a computer controlling a Yamaha Disklavier
Strange Attractor for computer controlled piano - 1991
After working on my Suite for Piano which employed Julia Setsand the Mandelbrot Set for structuring the pitch and duration fields, I decided to develop a piece which could be performed using the SOUND=SPACE as the instrumental interface to a computer-controlled piano, the Yamah Disklavier. At the time I was working at CEM in Arnhem, where I had been appointed artist-in-residence with the 'brief' of developing the SOUND=SPACE system software, including the development of it as a 'performance' resource.
The score of Strange Attractor consist of a graphic representation of the evolutions of the Julia Sets as calculated for numerous generically different points within the plane of Mandelbrot Set. These 'shapes' are taken as models for the movement of the player's arms and legs within the SOUND=SPACE performance area - a 2 metre high, 230-degree curved surface of approximately 1.4metre radius - surrounding the player. There are approximately 40 different shapes, laid out in an interconnected network according to how they evolve in the plane of complex numbers. The player can start with any one shape, playing it for an indeterminate time, and then move on to any immediately neighboring one in the network.
The first performance of this work was by Rolf Gehlhaar, with the SOUND=SPACE system controlling a Yamaha Disklavier, and took place at CEM in Arnhem, Holland in 1991
CHRONIK for 2 pianos, 2 percussionists and live electronics - 1991
The history and evolution of CHRONIK is long one, not because it took such a long time to compose the piece - which indeed it did - but because the many varied techniques and means employed in its composition evolved over a period of some 10 years. CHRONIK is a both a record and a product of this process: the evolution of my first collection of personal computer-aided composition tools and techniques. But it is also a product of the changes in my natural, intuitive way of conceiving music brought about by interacting with these tools.
The computer has been an important tool employed in my compositional work for a long time, but it was not until 1981 that it began to play a role in the actual creative process as well. At the beginning, its applications were limited to simple tasks such as the generation of evolving pitch fields and their interrelationships, repetetive tasks of churning out notes and chords according to fixed rules that I could "automate"; but with increasing experience, clarity of purpose and programming ability, I began to expand its application into the creative domain as well.
I began to develop programs which, on the basis of simple rules (and statistically determined exceptions to them - mutations of the rules), employing statistical distributions, stochastic processes and recursive algorithms, would calculate and generate small structures, processes and textures of sounds. These I then regarded as objets trouvees which I transformed further by hand, establishing relationships and interactions between them and embedding them into other, larger contexts which go to make up a finished composition.
My ideal was, as it always had been, to create a seamless connection between sound structure and formal micro- and macrostructure: the given physical nature of the sounds and structure of the sound events employed in a composition should be reflected in the short-term development as well as in the larger evolution of the composition.
Thanks to grants received from the Arts Council of Great Britain and the Heinrich-Strobel-Stiftung of Freiburg, Germany in 1982-84, I was able to make further progress in this direction and developed the beginnings of a personal computer tool-kit for composition.
These "tools" - small programs which would generate or manipulate notes, chords, rhythms, durations, etc. according to certain rules -, though each quite limited in its scope, posessed a considerable advantage over all I had developed previously: they were modular and could therefore be interconnected, i.e. the results generated by one tool could be further shaped or transformed by another tool. The output of a chord-generating tool - a characteristic sequence of chords of a specific interval structure, for example, could be immediately transformed by a second tool which might divide it up into individual voices according to a set of rules and then assign the voices to specific instruments according to another set of rules. Rules applied to generate pitch intervals could be used to generate time-intervals. Rules that generated evolutions of durations could be used to generate interval movements.
I began to expand the scope of the programs further, to be able to translate the behaviour of "virtual objects" in "virtual landscapes" into sound events. In short, invented simple physical models - for example an idealised, frictionless concave plane with a hole in its centre - translated into a computer program, with the appropriate rules of correspondence, would serve as the generating engine of musical events. In the above model, for example, "marbles" of different masses and sizes would be "propelled" from the perimeter onto the plane at different velocities and in different directions. Their behaviour - whether they collided, rolled off the plane, fell into the hole, plugged up the hole, gathered and gut stuck into bunches, and so forth, could be translated into sound events that reflected (but never illustrated!) this behaviour.
This tool-kit made it possible not only to generate events and structures systematically, but also to develop and to transform them, to study the effects of small changes in the rules, to try to generate a set of starting conditions which might function somewhat like a 'genetic code'. (These experiments were to lead me to the idea, which I later realised in the second version of the software for SOUND=SPACE, of developing a programme which, with only a few probabilistic starting rules, would in real time, under the control of an interactive audience, generate a "generic" music, a music that sounds like a certain kind of familiar music - classical, modern, ethnic or pop.).
With this tool-kit, I began to be able to generate larger phrases, even whole sections of a composition. Different versions of the same set of starting rules could be compared, or even used simultaneously. The greater my control over the minutiae of my musical vision became and the more I could contain the conditions that would lead to their evolution in computer programmes, the more I felt I could "compose" intuitively. Furthermore, the results of these generating tools - at that time my output was restricted to numbers or a rudimentary musical notation on paper - began to influence markedly the way I was conceiving music intuitively, composing in my head without thinking about it, the way all composers do.
I began to experiment with generating several different versions from the same set of starting rules - an obvious development, as many of the rules were probabilistic, i.e. they did not prescribe deterministic choices but a set of limits within which a number of equally valid alternative choices could be made. A number of my compositions of this time - PIXELS for 2 quartets, TOKAMAK for piano and orchestra, INFRA for 10 amplified instruments - consist partially or entirely of the simultaneous unfolding of several different realisations of the same set of rules. In these pieces, a second-level, structural "polyphony" arises, not out of the interplay and juxtaposition of the individual voices and layers of the piece, but out of the simultaneous superposition of two independent, slightly different yet intimately related 'pieces', i.e. a poly-formality.
Some of the tool-programs I was developing also had a real-time input: by moving a joystick that I had built for my computer, I could influence one or two parameters, for example the probabilities that determined the interval structure and register of a series of chords, while the notes of the chords were actually being calculated. Further experiments with this line of thinking - putting duration and rhythms also under the real-time influence of the joystick - quickly led to the idea to create an interactive piece which, calculated and played by a computer, would be "performed" by an audience somehow interacting with the computer. This was the original idea for SOUND=SPACE, an interactive computer controlled musical environment in which a group of people moving about in a space surveyed by an ultrasonic ranging system interact with a computer, thereby triggering, controlling and influencing a sequence of musical events. A timely commission from the new Museum for Science and Industry, La Villette, in Paris made it possible to realise the first version this project, with the collaboration of Philippe Prevot and the Studio LIMCA in Auch, France.
After several years of concentrating on SOUND=SPACE, developing and refining both its technical and software aspects, I turned again towards developing new software strategies for composition. Two areas attracted my attention: the fields of mathematics referred to as Catastrophe Theory - the systematisation and algorithmic description of sudden, seemingly dicontinuous changes of state - and Chaos Theory - instability and disorder within ordered processes, the geometry of nature. The latter also includes the recursive mathematics of fractals, the Mandelbrot set and Julia sets, such as brought to popular attention by the highly charged and colourful visual representations of seemingly organic growth patterns as in the publications of H.-O. Peitgen and P.H.Richter. I was greatly assisted in this area by H.McDowell, who was developing a Fractal Music Program in 1989 and gave me a copy of it. I found some of the types of sound "journeys" and "landscapes" that could be generated with this program very interesting, especially those which were strongly "centered", displaying an evolution, with revolving mounting tensions, then releasing, collapsing and rebuilding again. Also, I could easily adapt the output results of this program to my own techniques of transformation.
Enough background; now to the piece itself. CHRONIK is composed in 9 sections, most of them flowing seamlessly one into the other, arranged symmetrically around a centre. The work as a whole initially unfolds from an "atmosphere" of contemplative non-development, to be heard as from a distance, like a landscape. Approaching the centre, the atmosphere gradually changes; the listener is increasingly engaged to follow dynamic developmental processes and juxtapositions of different textures. This condition slowly gives way again to an atmosphere of more remote, contemplative soundscapes, already familiar from the beginning.
After two performances of this piece, it has become quite evident that CHRONIK is almost impossible to play well. Even after careful individual preparation, it requires at least a week of ensemble rehearsals. It should really be played quasi from memory. None of the performances, all with very good musicians, have so far have measured up.
CHRONIK was premiered at the Donaueschinger Tage Fuer Neue Musik in 1992 and recorded for the for the SWF, Baden-Baden by J-J Dunki and B.Wambach, pianos and A.Boettger and Jean-Claude Forrestier, percussion; the live electronics was provided by the Experimental Studio of the Heinrich-Strobel-Stiftung, Freiburg, and operated by the composer with the competent aid of Andre Richard.
A second performance and recording for the ABC was made by Stephanie McCallum and Robert Curry, pianos and Sprung Percussion at the 8th Sydney Spring in 1997; a slightly simplified but more elegant version of the live-electronics was assembled and operated by the composer.
MAREE for 6 percussionists and live electronics - 1992 in memoriam H.H.Matossian 1910-1992
So Nat'ralists observe, a Flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey,
And these have smaller fleas to bite'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.
- Jonathan Swift
The computer has already for a long time been an important tool in my personal compositional workshop. Certain electronic devices have played an important role in my exploration and understanding of the nature of sound. In this instance the device is a digital time delay and feedback loop which is employed to scan recursively and thereby alter the interior of complex sounds.
The sound of any of the amplified instruments may be infinitely recombined and continuously phase-shifted with itself so that certain aspects of the sound are cancelled or reinforced, thus altering its timbre. Dissimilar sounds can be made similar and vice versa.
MAREE is a work centered on the exploration of nature using two types of tools: an electronic device generally employed to add reverberation to sounds in a recording or production studio and a mathematical device - mappings of complex numbers, numbers that have a real and an imaginary component It is both a study of sound types and a study of the geometry of nature as seen through the framework of fractal mathematics. Here, similar to the technical process described above - delay and feedback - a recursive algorithm employing real and imaginary numbers - the Mandelbrot set and a large number of Julia sets - are employed to generate the pitch/timbre structures of the instrumental textures as well as their rhythmic structures. Short events or combination of events are continuously mapped onto themselves and reinjected into a global flow which oscillates slowly between moderate extremes.
MAREE was badly premiered in Metz by the Percussion de Strassbourg in 1992 and beautifully performed and recorded by Sprung Percussion, directed by Daryl Pratt with live electronics by the composer, for the ABC, Sydney, during the 8th Sydney Spring in 1997.
Grand Unified Theory of Everything for flute, bass clarinet and piano - 1992
As I had recently attended a series of lectures on particle physics and cosmology - one of my long-term interests -, many of the ideas coursing through my usually fevered mind while I was thinking about a piece for this somewhat unusual ensemble of instruments, were of a cosmological nature.
I began to conceive a musical flow which, liberating itself from the gravity of the unison by responding to forces of different magnitudes and scales, arises out of a musical plasma to individuate into fragmentary but recogniseable shapes.
To some extent, I have taken 'snapshots' at various scales of the first billionth second or so of the 'Big Bang' and used these as structural models for G.U.T.E., but very loosely, as an inspiration. The development of the piece is by no means linear and occupies less space and considerably more time.
G.U.T.E. was commisioned by Harry Spaarnay's nifty little group Het Trio with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain and the first performance took place in Eindhoven, Holland in 1992; it was recorded by the NOS.
Inna Space 2000 for tape and the SOUND=SPACE System - 1993
This work was commissioned by the Nettlefold Festival in 1993 for their installation of the huge inflatable 'Colourscape' on Clapham Common, London.
INNA SPACE 2000 was aimed primarily at children, intended in part as an introduction to multi-dimensional electronic music. 'Colourscape' is a large inflatable, consisting of approximately 60 linked architecturally identical pillow-shaped chambers through which people can perambulate. The intense primary colours of the chambers are very carefully chosen for their effect upon the visitor.
The composition is in the shape of a 'space' journey, with the performer playing the role of captain and navigator, occasionally also speaking to the 'passengers'. The journey, beginning with an energetic take-off, proceeds to a number of different 'stations' and 'risky' adventures in space, and then safely returns home. All the sounds employed - both the performed ones and the ones on the accompanying tape - were chosen primarily for their 'dynamic' and 'spatial' qualities.
The first performances of INNA SPACE 2000 were given by the composer during the Nettlefold Festival 1993 inside the inflatable 'Colourscape' in London; an excellent video recording, summing up the performance and including numerous glimpses of the audience, was made by Graham Elliott.
Angaghoutiun for piano quartet (piano, violin, viola and cello) - 1994
Composed to mark the first official visit of the President of the Republic of Armenia to Great Britain, Angaghoutiun (independence in Armenian) was inspired by the recent re-emergence of Armenia as an independent nation.
The work, like the nation, is a fragment of a rich and broad tapestry, the edges of which lie beyond our horizons, reaching to a far distant, partially forgotten, partially suppressed past, as well as forward into an uncertain yet hopeful future.
Small, almost microscopic elements - scales, fragments, colours, textures, moods - drawn from Armenian art, landscape, liturgy and folksong, were employed to shape the material. The work is dedicated to my sons Hagop and Vahakn, and to all the children of Armenia.
The premiere in 1994, during a fundraising concert for the victims of the horrific earthquake in Armenia in 1988, was performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, by members of the Chilingirian Quartet with Seta Tanyel, piano.
AMOR for flute - 1997
One morning, not long after I had started thinking about the piece for flute I was going to compose for the '95 Sydney Spring Festival, I woke up convinced I had heard the whole piece during a dream.
In this dream I had been set the task of composing a very peculiar piece: outside my window there were some power cables, five of them, just like a musical staff. I had to climb up the pole, weave in between the cables and set the notes on them. The notes were very big and extraordinarily heavy, so I could only set them one by one, up and down the pole for each note.
There were so many notes and the staff seemed endless. It was exhausting. But also exhilarating, because every time I set a new note the vista below changed completely, from steaming jungle to an English garden, to a marble quarry, to a tangle of pipes, like in a refinery, and so on.
When I tried to untangle my memories of the dream later that day, all I could remember of the music was its beginning and its general mood. And the title AMOR, the massive letters of which I had also carried up one by one. Thank goodness they were only four. In composing this piece I had two main concerns (other than capturing the dream): one was to create a sound "organism" with a character stronger than that of the instrument articulating it; the other was that the life of this strange organism, unfolding according to a few, very simple principles, consistently and reasonably, should be evocative of larger worlds.
AMOR was premiered and recorded for the ABC by Kathleen Gallagher at the 8th Sydney Spring in 1997.
Quantum Leap for piano - 1994
Commissioned by and written for Roger Woodward, QL is a somewhat mad trip into my 'herbal garden' of computer-aided composition tools: it is, in part, slightly revisionistic, but on the whole, a beautiful piece which every self-respecting pianist of contemporary music should be able to play from memory. The ending of the work contains a coded message to the world from Hiroshima.
Dreams for children on violin and piano - 1995
I was asked by my sons' school if I would offer a composition for sale at an 'auction of promises' for one of the school's fundraising events. The parent 'buying' the composition had two children, one beginning the violin and the other, beginning piano.
The work is thus clearly divided into a main line for the violin and a simple piano accompaniment. The violin line was generated by fractal arithmetic and the chordal piano accompaniment by simple superposition and permutation of the violin line intervals.
Lullaby for piano - 1996
"sorry, not ready yet....still sleeping. -RG"
SONNET for mixed choir - 1996
When I began to think about composing this piece for the Esterhazy Singers and considering what kind of text might be suitable, my primary concerns were to find one which would allow me to create a sound-world with a highly volatile character, frequently changing, sometimes sounding electronic, sometimes instrumental, then like a cocktail party, then like a choir, then changing again to a jazz brass and percussion ensemble, and so forth. This vision of the piece, it seemed to me, would require a text of simple construction and clear direction - well-worn words in firm phrases which would easily lend themselves to the process of phonetic analysis and reconstruction which I intended to carry out in the piece.
After some searching - even considering writing the text myself, based upon texts written by others - I finally chose Shakespeare's Sonnet Number 80. It seemed ideal for my purpose, straightforward and uncomplicated:
O, how I faint when I of you do write,
Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,
And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
To make me tounge tied, speaking of your fame,
But since your worth (wide as the ocean is)
The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,
My saucy bark, inferior far to his,
On your broad main doth willfully appear.
Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,
Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride;
Or being wreck'd, I am a worthless boat,
He of tall building, and of goodly pride:
If he thrive, and I be cast away,
The worst was this; - my love was my decay.
That about captures it: desire, competition, lust, possible rejection, self-consolation. And phonetically speaking, many of its lines modulate continuously up and down the spectral scale from the simple "u" or "o" sound through "a" and "e" to "ee" sounds, to more complex "u-o", "a-u" and "a-i" sounds, just to mention a few; and not too many polysyllabic words or too many clusters of unvoiced consonants to get in the way of singable vowels, but just enough consonants to be able to let them become independent occasionally, transformed into "percussion".
Structurally speaking, the piece consist of a number of phrases - ordered into a symmetrical series - which more or less correspond to the sense and phrasing of the Sonnet. Although the text is often taken apart into its constituent sounds and superimposed on top of itself, thereby making it more or less unintelligible for short stretches, I have usually embedded an intelligible, often spoken, version of it into such textures as well. Furthermore, just as most composers cannot when working with a text, I too have frequently been unable to resist the temptation of creating textures that interpret or musically "illustrate" the sense of the words.
SONNET was commissioned and valiantly first performed by the Esterhazy Singers, directed by Nicholas Bannan, in London, 1997
Astral Shadows for 6 dancers in a SOUND=SPACE 1997
A collaboration with Laurie Booth choreographing members of the Shobana Jaya Singh dance company, this work was commissioned by the dance festival STEPPING OUT and was performed several times in the - specially for this occasion - enlarged Purcell Room. Laurie's conception for the work consisted of a number of permutations of the same formula of movements. The programs I wrote for the SOUND=SPACE attempted to reflect this structure: each of the 9 different programs for structuring the space shared some of the sounds of all the other programs. Reading short excerpts from texts about 'out-of-body' and 'life-after-death' experiences, the voices of the dancers were also sampled and included in the sound material of the work.
Waiting for Rain for soprano, flute, violin, viola da gamba and 2 harpsichords - 1998
Lyrics by Michael Sharkey, antipodean masterpoet
"sorry, not ready yet....another one of those impossibly difficult pieces, so I'm still waiting for the first performance so I can find out what it is I tried to do in it! -RG"