Two Pieces for Disklavier

I. Zugie-Woogie II. Amazing Grace

Zugie-Woogie takes as its theme a weekly train trip I made between Karlsruhe and Essen while I was a visiting lecturer at the electronic music studio at the Hochschule für Musik. (Zug is the German word for train and Zugie rhymes with boogie.) My journey began at 6:02 am and took four hours each direction. The first leg from Karlsruhe to Mainz was a frantic affair, filled with the jerky bustle of commuters and their caffeinated chatter. But at Mainz the train emptied out and the journey took on a completely different rhythm. Starting just north of the city the train hugs the Rhine all the way to Bonn. This section of track reveals one of the most beautiful vistas in all of Germany. For about an hour and a half the train swoops around sharp river bends, each new turn reveals another castle, ancient village and vine-covered hillside. The steep valley walls magnify and focus ambient sounds from crossing signals, car horns and passing trains such that that the entire experience has a vibrant intensity to it. I switched trains in Köln and then headed westward on another commuter run across the busy Ruhrgebiet into Essen. Despite the demands of a long day (eight hours journey and five hours teaching) this trip became one of the most memorable experiences of my years in Europe. What I enjoyed most about the journey was its fanciful mixture of irregular regularity, the simultaneous unfolding of the boring with the surprising; the sounds of chattering people, banging doors, warning signals, horns, passing trains, and beneath it all the persistence of the wheels.

Amazing Grace is an algorithmic fantasy based on the American folk song of the same name. The fantasy involves a processes of becoming, in which melodic and rhythmic contours of the folk song serve as gravitational centers for the musical texture to coalesce around, like dust spiraling inward to form a star. Amazing Grace begins in a mode and texture very distant from the folk melody. As the composition unfolds the original tune gradually exerts more and more influence over the stochastic texture. Short melodic motives and rhythmic figures first appear and are followed by progressively longer gestures and melodic contours coming to the fore. The process continues until the point of maximum influence, at which time the fantasy has congealed into a block texture with a single rhythmic motive and melodic content completely determined by the folk song. Amazing Grace was commissioned for the opening ceremony of the Multimedial III Festival in Karlsruhe Germany, where it received its world premiere in 1995.

The two pieces are played without pause.

Two Pieces for Disklavier makes extensive use of shape and stochastic based compositional techniques. It was composed using Common Music, a composition environment developed by the composer while he worked at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechonogie, in Karlsruhe, Germany.

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Last modified: Thu Mar 20 11:52:44 CDT 2014