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Prix 1987 - 2007

ORF Oberösterreich

Concerto Grosso
Richard Teitelbaum

"Concerto Grosso" by Richard Teitelbaum was realized with a three piano system and an addional four channel MIDI interface which Teitelbaum had developed himself.

Concerto Grosso

The concept of the "Concerto Grosso" (1985) grew out of my earlier work with the computer-enhanced multi-player piano system that I began developing in 1982. In works employing that system, such as "Solo for Three Pianos" (1982) and "Digital Piano Music" (1984), material played live by the composer-performer was instantly read into computer memory where it was processed (delayed, overlaid, looped, transposed, speed-changed, randomized, etc.) and simultaneously played out by two Marantz Pianocorder Vorsetzer units attached two additional grand piano. In this way a single pianist achieved simultaneous control over three pianos in live performance. Programming this system was done through the use of the PatchControl Language (PCL) , which was written in collaboration with software engineer Mark Bernard in the the U.S. in 1983.

The "Concerto Grosso" employs this three piano system, with the addition of a four channel MIDI interface that I developed while I was living in Berlin (1984-85). This interface made possible the control of the Pianocorder Vorsetzer from a MIDI synthesizer keyboard, and / or the control of the MIDI-based synthesizers form the piano keyboard. With the further addition of a pitch-to-MIDI converter, it also made possible the control of both pianos and synthesizers by acoustic melody instruments such as winds and brass.

The "Concerto Grosso" employs these technical means in the creation of a work in which each member of a group of three acoustic instrumentalists (piano, winds and trombone) while performing the function of the "concertino" group in the traditional concerto grosso may also "direct" the computerized "ripeino", which is made up two mechanically - played pianos, digital FM synthesizers (Yamaha DXand TX series) and digitally sampled strings, percussion etc. (Kurzweil 250). Through a complex MIDI network, the musical gestures of each player are directed through one or more specially designed computer programs to effect any of the synthesizers or mechanical pianos in real-time. These include PCL programs derived from my earlier Digital Piano Music and programmed by Stefan Tiedje, and also a separate system employing FORTH programs by George Lewis, all networked through a daisy chain with a number of selectable MIDI channels.

Among the numerous textures and combinations possible are solos, duos and trios among the acoustic human concertino, similar combinations among the robotic ripieno, and interactive "accompanied" solos, duos or trios between and amongst the two groups. Thus, for instance, the Concerto Grosso begins with a trio of interlinked pianos one human and one robotic) and an independent solo saxophone. At other times the saxophone (and trombone) interact with computer-directed synthesizers or even the machine-drive pianos. The programs are designed to"listen" to the acoustic instrumentalists and respond to aspects of the musical gestures they hear by modifying their outputs accordingly. They do not play out preprogrammed musical sequences, but only generate musical output in response to instantaneous human musical input from the musicians, who play both in response to each other and to the artificial ripieno that is itself responding to them.

To me the continuous acceptance of real-time (musical) input as stimulus for responsive behavior by the computer is of critical importance now. In this regard I am much indebted to the work of may colleagues for inspiration and advice, among whom I would have to mention David Behrman and George Lewis above all. And of course all the "angel-engineers" mentioned above.

Technical Background

This opus was realized with the real-time interactive multipiano performance system (three grand piano controlled by two Apple ll computers, one D-track 68000 computer with four channel MIDI interface); also a Kurzweil 250 synthesizer, three Yamaha DX7 synthesizers, a TX 816 synthesizer in a network for real-time performance. The work is executed by Richard Teitelbaum (piano and keyboards), Anthony Braxton (winds etc.), George Lewis (winds and other instruments).

Iro Wa Nihoedo

The text and title of this piece come from one of the most famous and unusual poems in the Japanese language. Traditionally ascribed to Kukai (Kobo Daishi), the founder of Shingon Buddhism, it was composed some 1000 years ago to demonstrate the newly invented phonetic hirigana alphabet. It possesses the remarkable property of using every one of the 47 hirigana syllables once and once only, and has therefore been memorized by Japanese children as a mnemonic device to "learn their ABC's" ("i-ro-ha"). Semantically, the poem is strongly Buddhist in nature, and though probably not actually written by Kukai himself, it was almost certainly written by one of his Buddhist followers. Though highly allusive and difficult to translate, a rough paraphrase might be:

Though colors (flowers) are fragrant
They will fade (fall)
In this world of ours
non lives forever.

Today I cross the high mountain of life's illusions.
There will be no more shallow dreaming, no more intoxication.

Musically, I have tried to pattern my piece along the lines of traditional Shingon shomyo chant, which is made up of a total of some sixty set melodic formulas, a smaller subset of which (perhaps 10 - 15) may be patched together to form any single piece. The notation employs neumelike symbols, each of which may represent a single note or be combined to describe extended vocal melismas. They represent graphically the ornately embellished melodies with the microtonal inflections and subtle nuances that so strikingly characterize Shingon shomyo - in a way that Western notation can never capture.

I have taken sets of these neumes (and of course the melodic patterns they represent) and attempted to compose new "shomyos" derived from, but also extending the traditional structures and forms. The piece follows a sequence of the traditional Nikka Hoyo liturgical service, the opening section being based ona tengu (hymn of praise), shichi no bongo (Sanskrit words of four wisdoms), a middle part on bai (a quieting song) and the conclusion on the famous sange ("song on falling flowers") when flower petal are normally scattered during the actual service.

My composition means include chance operations employing the I Ching to generate original sequences of neumes, which are then subject to modification according to certain stylistic considerations in consultation with Mr. Kojun Arai. The score also incorporates freer graphic notations derived from the traditional hakase (neumes) as images for improvisation (a technique not normally used in shomyo).