These pieces are being written with the internet in mind,
and are published on this website.
They are not specifically intended for inclusion in live performances of Retrospective.
Live performances of Retrospective should use one of these settings of Song Six in Scene Five.
They can also be performed in other contexts, live or otherwise.
Most of the recordings at this site were made by sending abstract MIDI information to a MIDI output device in which the
sounds were defined.
The MIDI output device, used during the composition and
of Study 1, Study 2 and the Study 3 sketch, was
the Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth
built into the Windows operating system.
In March 2013, I
installed the CoolSoft VirtualMIDISynth as a more flexible
This virtual device can be set up to use any
(locally available) soundFont.
After testing many soundFonts, I decided the one I liked best was the
Arachno SoundFont version 1.0. This is the soundFont used
for most of the more recent mp3 recordings on this web site. It is also the soundFont that was used as the basis for the
soundFont used in the recording
Setting 1 of Song Six.
(I used the Viena soundFont editor to replace various patches/samples
with patches/samples of my own to realize the
speech-syllables and wind.)
The recordings at this website should definitely not be thought
as definitive versions of these pieces.
In public performances of Song Six, for example, the text
should be performed live, there
should be an experienced klangregisseur, and the sounds should be chosen specially for the occasion! The
Arachno soundFont is good for making demonstration mp3 recordings for a website (to be played back via the web on PCs with
limited audio capabilities), but may well not be ideal for use in large concert halls. In live public concerts, the klangregisseur
both for choosing the sounds, and for using them effectively!
These pieces were part of the context within which Act Two was conceived.
None of them has been published, and no digital scores or recordings of them currently
exist. Eventually, I am hoping to publish at least some of them here.
Pianola Music (1967)
The original score is a coloured roll in space-time notation on graph
paper (a piano-roll also exists). A digital score (transcription) was made for my Assistant Performer software in 2015.
A series of live recordings was made on
magnetic tape in 1968, but the paper roll gradually disintegrated, leading to unwanted clusters, and the pedals were increasingly loud and squeeky. This tape is still in my archives, but I have not tried to have it converted to a digital format.
In 2016, two new mp3 recordings were made (at 100% and 200% speed) by playing the 2015 score on my
software, using the Virtual MIDI Synth
and the Grand Piano from the Arachno Sound Font
Documentation: About Pianola Music
the two 2016 recordings and the 2015 score (transcription), together with photographs of the original materials (score, pianola roll and analysis documents).
Untitled '70 (1970) for wind quartet with automatic conductor
Performers: wind quartet with automatic conductor
Score: space-time notation.
Performances: First performed in 1970 with a simple,
large (2 metre) metronome at a student concert at the Royal Academy of Music. Later
that year, the piece was also performed in public (under the title "The Lantern of
Diogenes") at the Cockpit Theatre in London. This second performance was
conducted by a black, four-armed "lantern" (diameter ca. 5 metres) which was lowered
in the dark from the ceiling of the theatre just before the performance started.
The audience sat around the players and could see only the players, their music
stands and the flashing light bulbs. Each wind-player followed the lights flashing
on his arm of the lantern. The music consists of apparently random, longish notes.
Random harmonies happen.
Notes: In the first performance, the metronome’s
baton was made from the shaft of an old golf club into which a long, heavy steel
rod was pushed at one end. The fulcrum was at the lower end of the golf club shaft,
and the position of the weight was adjustable, so that different, very slow “tempi”
could be produced. The “tempi” were so slow that they could not be stored
in short-term memory. An approaching (silent) “tick” was read visually,
as is the case with early, non-ticking baroque metronomes.
In the second performace, the lantern’s arms were constructed out of black
conduit piping. At the end of each arm were three (four or five?) small coloured
light bulbs mounted on a horizontal wooden slat. Each of the four operators (in
the roof of the theatre) had a panel with a bell-push for each of his light bulbs.
I lowered the lantern from the ceiling using a large fishing-reel and four invisible
Sadly, neither the original metronome nor the lantern have survived and there are
no photographs. Sketches can be found in my notebooks...
Scene One Genesis, Prelude to Act One
Scene Two Machines, Prelude to Act Two
6 whisperers (3 female, 3 male)
no score, but 6 independent, typewritten parts
and a scenario
the text which I constructed contains words
whose meaning is ignored; time is not notated.
Act One Clytemnestra
4 percussionists and sound-sculptures,
no score, but 4 independent, handwritten parts
and a scenario
The “sound-sculptures” are real,
on-stage sculptures, machines, or objets trouvées
which make noises. This
scene does not use loudspeakers.
The score is notated in 4/4 - but there is a liberal use of unmeasured (grace) notes.
The percussionist’s parts are aligned and repeated ad lib. Since each player has
a different number of bars (a large prime number), the overall alignment does not
repeat for many hundreds of years. The actual duration played depends on the conductor.
As with Possible Developments
a score containing a fixed alignment of the percussion parts needs to be written
out - with space for notating the sound-sculptures used in a particular performance.
The score should contain about 20 minutes of music, not all of which is actually
(on stage) string quartet with dramatic
alto, sound-sculptures. (off stage) 4 percussionists, tape, conductor.
The original is handwritten on transparent
paper (ca. A1 format). There is also a scenario
notated using the advanced standard notation
of the early 1970s.
The “sound-sculptures” are real sculptures, machines, or objets trouvées
which make noises.
The score is fundamentally correct and complete, but I would need to recopy and
check/revise it before giving it to any performers. The parts do not exist.
The Probability of Harmony (1971)
Performers: alto-flute, clarinet, conductor, almost
inaudible tape (operated by the conductor)
Score: A long roll of paper ca. 85cm on which the
clarinet part is written, and a sheet of perforated cardboard ca. 30cm x 20cm containing
the flute part. There are also separate parts for the two instrumentalists.
Performances: This piece had many performances during
the 1970s. The first performers were Marjorie Shansky (alto flute), Howard Davidson
(A-Clarinet) and myself (conductor). We performed it at the Cockpit Theatre and
subsequently at the 1971 Dartington Summer School (where Harrison Birtwistle, Peter
Maxwell-Davies and Morton Feldman were in the audience).
Notes: The flute part has holes through which the
clarinet part can be seen. The cardboard can be aligned anywhere on the roll. The
clarinet plays simple notes whose duration is determined by the flutist and conductor.
The flutist has unmeasured durations which decorate the clarinet’s notes.
The piece stops when the tape runs out (there are five alternative tapes, each of
which sounds similar but has a different duration).
Possible Developments (1971)
Performers: alto flute, cor-anglais, bass clarinet,
Score: Originally, this was a mobile score consisting
of an A1 perforated cardboard sheet under which the parts for three of the instruments
were aligned ad lib. (This score is in my archives.) In 1979, I made a fixed version
in an ordinary score.
Performances: Apart from the Wigmore Hall performance,
this piece had several earlier performances (notably at the Cockpit Theatre and
Dartington Summer Schools).
Recording: I have a tape of a very good performance
by the Lontano Ensemble conducted by George Mowat-Brown at the Wigmore Hall in London
Notes: The conductor coordinates and steers unnotated
durations. A very voluptuous piece!
Performers: 18 instrumants: 4 e-flat clarinets, 4
b-flat trumpets, 4 horns, 6 ’celli, conductor.
Performance: Donaueschingen Festival 1978. Südwestfunk
Sinfonie-Orchester conducted by Ernest Bour.
Notes: Experimental time-notation. Duration class
symbols define bands of possible duration.
beyond the symbolic (1978-82)
2 flutes, 2 b-flat clarinets, 3 vibraphones,
3 violins, 2 violas, 2 ’celli, 1 double bass, conductor.
Theâtre du Rond Point in Paris in 1982.
Ensemble Intercontemporain conducted by Sylvain Cambreling.
Commisioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain
on the initiative of Nicholas Snowman.
Dedicated to Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Harrison Birtwistle, Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen were in the audience.
Experimental time-notation. Duration class symbols defined according to the amount
of horizontal space they take in the score. The scale varies from page to page for
efficient use of space and maximum legibility.
The double bass part was a problem. I need to transcribe it for some other instrument
- possibly a third ’cello or a synthesizer.
This piece, which would sound good in a concert with Schoenberg’s Verklärte
, led directly to my article The Notation of Time
There is a poem in the preface:
that more is
but beyond words
is will be misunderstood
The Innocent Bystander (1986-87)
Performers: choir (at least 7 S, 7 A, 5 T, 5 B), at
least 1 trombone
Performance: BBC Singers, conducted by James Wood
at St John’s Smith Square, London, 1987.
Notes: the time notation is as in beyond the symbolic.
The idea of using symbols to express bands of possible values is extended to the
pitch notation. The choir pitches, which are freely chosen in ranges related to
the individual voices, are constantly sliding in ranges less than a semitone. The
trombone(s) plays one note at the end of the piece.
Was written during the first AIDS crisis.