The culmination of a 6 month-long project – the ‘Young Composers Commission’ – for Brighter Sound in Manchester. I wrote this as an interactive piece for piano and electronics. The piano was routed through effects in Ableton and the audience had control over these effects via laser pointers and laser sensors. Two arduinos were used to interface the physical and the digital worlds.
Larmes Des Demain
This is a set of variations based on on a five-bar theme from Olivier Messiaen’s Cloches d’angoisse et larmes d’adieu (The bells of anguish and tears of farewell). During the compositional process, the first five bars of Messiaen’s piece were recorded in full. This theme was then recorded line by line, chord by chord, and note by note. Then these individual cells were weaved together in Adobe Audition in different ways and with different levels of electronic processing to create the variations.
With each variation the piano sounds are increasingly processed, so that the instrument is gradually endowed with capacities outside of its usual reach (the ability to play microtones, fade from nothing, pitch bend, recompose its own spectrum and so on). The piece thus tells the story of the post-piano’s evolution.
References to the ‘tears’ and ‘bells’ of Messiaen’s piece are scattered throughout the piece.
This piece is influenced by the minimalist music of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams and Terry Riley. I find myself particularly drawn to pieces which feature a gradual assembly of interlocking musical cells. In these kinds of pieces the listener quickly learns the additive nature of their compositional method, and thus builds an expectation that the music will develop along the same trajectory as it has done hitherto. With ‘Insides’, I had the idea that I could generate this kind of expectation, and then suddenly subvert it.
I started thinking about each cell – or note – as something whole which could be exploded into its spectral components. At 2:00 there is a sonic explosion which triggers the fragmentation of each piano note into its first six or seven partials. The notes fragment from low to high, suggesting the reduction into finer and finer particles. Later on at around 6:30, these notes then fragment temporally through the application of granular synthesis.