MIDI keyboard controller (MIDI piano (Yamaha Disklavier), sampler)

This piece was written in 1992 for a live performer on a master keyboard that triggers a Disklavier (an acoustic piano with MIDI facilities) and a sampler at the same time. The Disklavier is tuned normally while the sampler adds whole-number intervals to fundamentals given by the tempered tuning of the Disklavier. The idea is to overcome the old Harry Partch “11-limit”. Partch did not use ratios beyond this limit. In my piece, with its sometimes jazz-related background, I wanted to find ways to integrate even stranger ratios, including the 19th partial, apparently well established in jazz harmonies.

A computer distributes the played notes to either the Disklavier or the sampler. Since the pitches are not in an ascending row on the master keyboard, it was possible for me to write “impossible-to-play” combinations, with fast widely spread figures, played in a simple chromatic scale on the keys. Or I could use bird-like melodic figures, played in much simpler chords.

The piece is dedicated to my teacher György Ligeti, who loved illusions and strange patterns in music or graphics or elsewhere.

The two (not distinguishable) movements are:

  1. “Harry Partch meets Maurits Escher” (Harry Partch was a composer from Arizona, working with just intonation, Maurits Escher was a Dutch graphic artist, creating visual illusions)
  2. “Chet Baker enters, arm in arm with Olivier Messiaen. Anton Webern and Conlon Nancarrow stand apart shyly.”

Manfred Stahnke [ii-07]