The core research idea in this work is to address the problem of integrating electroacoustic redesign of instrumental sound spectra within a live performance context. The piece consists of 70 pre-composed sound files triggered by the pianist in performance. While the exact duration and structure of these files is fixed, they are designed to interlock and overlap with an element of flexibility, facilitating key moments of synchronisation in keeping with the performer’s shaping of the material. A fixed constellation of 24 piano chords colour a consistent attack-resonance morphological framework. The form is developed as a series of interlocking modules in which the fixed identities of the chordal sonorities are continually recycled while being energised and articulated texturally. These are counterbalanced through noisy sonorities which provide an alternate line of gestural and spectral development. Stylistically this mixes elements of tight gestural synchronisation and spectral blending to combine the suggestion of an ‘extended instrument’ with a more ‘sound sculpture’ approach wherein electroacoustic sounds have a developing structural integrity in parallel with the piano material. The piano chords were subject to processes of detailed spectral deconstruction, reducing these down to clusters of partials or individual partials which were then refashioned through a wide range of pitch and time processing techniques. When re-integrated with the sonority of the piano, this allowed perceptions of tonality and/or spectral focus to be explored by using the piano’s stability of pitch as a probe of the ear’s propensity for resolution of complex spectra into simple forms. Central to this is the observation that there exist ‘spaces’ between clearly defined pitch and ambiguous timbres, exemplified by motion between pure tones, harmonicity, inharmonicity and noise. X explores the experience of drift and interaction between these broad states of sound and demonstrates the fluid way in which these can be articulated.
Performance and sound projection: The stereo electroacoustic sounds are a series of 70 discrete sound files (48kHz/24bit) triggered in a Max/MSP patch controlled by the pianist using a MIDI pedal. A co- performer riding audio levels and following the Max/MSP patch is essential. Performance requirements: 1. Grand piano (sostenuto pedal essential), tuned to A440. 2. 6-8 loudspeakers, as follows: Stereo sound reproduction, ideally utilising six loudpseakers for reproduction of the electroacoustic sounds: (1) One main pair onstage, either side of the piano, full frequency range with subwoofers. (2) A second wide pair, typically near the front corners of the space. (3) A third pair placed behind the piano, high enough to project over it. (4) The piano should be amplified in stereo, ideally via a further pair of full range loudspeakers placed either side of the instrument and not forward of it. If this is not possible, the amplified piano sound may be projected through the main pair (1). If only one main pair of loudspeakers is available, additional onstage monitoring should be used to assist the pianist. Depending on the scale of the performance space the extra onstage monitoring, close to the piano, may be necessary even when loudspeaker pairs 1-3 are available. 3. Mixer with stereo mic. preamps, and up to 8 group and 2 aux outputs for discrete control of loudspeaker pairs. 4. Computer with Max/MSP 5 or above (or runtime) and high quality audio interface for playback of electroacoustic sounds. The computer should be positioned with the mixer and balance should be attended to by an assistant during the performance, who should also follow the cues triggered by the pianist to ensure that they are in the correct sequence. 5. Performer-controlled footswitch/MIDI conversion (eg. footswitch with MIDI solutions footswitch controller), with MIDI cable routed to interface/computer. The Max/MSP patch may be adapted to accommodate different methods of triggering the sounds, but should always be triggered by the pianist.
Citation : Young, J. (2010) X for piano and electroacoustic sounds. CD recording available on Shadow Piano (2013), St Paul, MN, Innova Records 874.
Research Group : Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre
Research Institute : Music, Technology and Innovation - Institute for Sonic Creativity (MTI2)
- School of Arts