Program Notes for "Interesting Melodies" Concert
March 27, 1997
34 Chords, Christian Wolff in Hanover and South Royalton
Larry Polansky, electric guitar
34 Chords, Christian Wolff in Hanover and Royalton, is an "orchestration" of Morton Feldman's choral work Christian Wolff In Cambridge (1963), inspired by the famous "lost electric guitar piece" that Feldman wrote for Christian. 34 Chords... was written to celebrate my friend and colleague's 25 years at Dartmouth College, and is dedicated to him with the greatest respect for his work and ideas.
"...still plenty of good music..."
Computer-composed work, 1994
Larry Polansky, electric guitar
David Feldman is a professor of mathematics at the University of New Hampshire. I first met him and his music in the early 1980's when I was a guest of Alvin Lucier's graduate seminar in composition at Wesleyan University. David was sitting in on the class, and I was astounded by the wealth of computer-composed work he had done &emdash; a body music which was austere, focussed, and in its own way, brilliant and unique. David's music is not often "performed" by humans, he has usually realized it directly from algorithm to digital sound. After a number of years of gentle requests, David gave me two scores for "guitar," although they could certainly be played by anything with the appropriate range. The performer's challenge (and delight) in these pieces is to take an apparently "raw" list of notes in time, for which the generating algorithm for which may or may not be understood, and re-compose the information to the instrument. The score's coherence and logic is one thing, the performer's another.
A rhymthmical idea forms the germ of this piece, a kind of conceptual pun.
One may hear a steady stream of uniform durations as degenerately random in
two opposite ways: either as independent but unvarying ``random''
durations, or as variable but fully corelated durations. The piece is formed out of a round trip from order to chaos to order, coming and
going by divergent routes to expose the double meaning of unchanging
constancy. The mercurial nature of the maximally random rhythms at the
piece's center evokes the post-Webern music of the '50 for which I have a
certain nostalgia, so I dressed the whole concept in dodecaphonically
determined pitches (my first ever twelve-tone piece actually!),
characteristically featuring those augmented and diminished octaves. The
pitches pun too, since one can hear the cyclically overlapping rows as
either sets of 9 or 12. The title refers to Schönberg's famous remark,
``there's still plenty of good music left to be written in C major.'' Of
course C major has done fine right along without Arnold Schönberg's
endorsement; rather the comment charms me because Schönberg seems to say
that, ideally, composers innovate from inner necessity, rather than their
sense of the exhausted potential of prevailing materials. I often see what
passes for ``postmodernism'' as a sophisticated package for yet another
generation's anxiety surrounding the art of the generation just past. Thus
I here evoke aspects of a now older music without ironic distance, but
with, I think, new purpose. I wrote ``...still plenty of good music...''
at the request of Larry Polansky and dedicate the piece to him. Typically
my instrumental scores indicate little more than pitches and rhythms and so
require a performer willing to act as full collaborator.
My Monodies #2 for 24-tone guitar
Computer-composed work, 1996
This piece was written for Larry Polansky. I realized that the 12-tone frets on the guitar fingerboard made many microtonal scales possible if one simply detuned the guitar's strings. Monody #2 is in 24-tone equal temperament, made by detuning 3 strings down 1/2 of a semitone. Many other equal temperaments would be possible in this way: 8,9,16,18,20,24,30,36,48,60,72 tone tunings are all possible.
This piece should be played softly, combining the timbral sweetness of Jim Hall or Earl Klugh with the meditative calm of Erik Satie or John Cage.
This piece was written using a computer program which selected
different intervals, all of which were close to the pure intervals
of the harmonic series. Each phrase uses a maximum of four intervals.
Both pieces are a series of random walks around a particular harmonic
world, with each walk beginning and ending at the same place &emdash; the
lowest "E" on the guitar.
My Monodies #2 is one of two such pieces written for Polansky. The other, My Monodies #1, is for 72-tone guitar and was premiered at the Bonk Festival, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1997.
[My Monodies and "...still plenty of good music..." will be recorded as part of a forthcoming CD for the Leonardo Music Journal, focussing on "post intentional" music (LP)]
Gamelan Computer Music
Daniel Goode/Larry Polansky
(1980; computer version 1995)
Eine Kleine Gamelan Computer Music is a live computer realization of Daniel Goode's wonderful process piece Eine Kleine Gamelan Music, first written for his ensemble Gamelan Son of Lion, but also performed frequently by many different ensembles, and Goode himself on solo clarinet. I had always loved the intelligence, eloquence, humour and richness of this one page score, and during a collaborative residency at P.A.S.S/Harvestworks in New York City with Dan, I wrote a live interactive version of the piece which "realizes" the score, making decisions in more or less the same way performers would. Dan and I have performed this new version a number of times, and a CD-length recording is in process.
The software was written in HMSL, and is available in the public domain as a stand-alone application (with manual and score) at my website (along with a number of other free MIDI applications, including the children's music software Anna's Music Box):