by Andrián Pertout (2008)
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Pi (Obstruction) for Schoenhut Concert Grand (Model 379, 37-key) was commissioned by American pianist Phyllis Chen and represents a Hommage à Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997). The title is in reference to the I Ching, or 'Book of Changes' - originating in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1122-771 BC) - and highlights hexagram 12 (incorporating the trigrams of energy and space) from the 64 hexagrams of the oracle. In the tradition of American composer, pianist and theorist Henry Cowell (1897-1965) and his monumental publication of New Musical Resources (1930), the work explores a variety of compositional techniques developed during the twentieth century by American experimentalist composer Conlon Nancarrow and documented by Kyle Gann in The Music of Conlon Nancarrow (1995). The two possible transpositions of the whole-tone scale are adopted in juxtaposition as the basic pitch material, while the simple seven-limit frequencies ratios associated with this hexatonic scale form the basis for rhythmic development: unison (1/1), just major tone (9/8), just major third (5/4), septimal subdiminished fifth (7/5), just minor sixth (8/5), septimal subminor seventh (7/4), and octave (2/1). The compositional structure features tempo canons (or diminution canons, expressed as polyrhythmic ratios), as well as an isorhythm constructed from a talea (rhythmic series) of 16 notes (3+4+5+4=16, 4+5+6+5=20, 5+6+7+6=24, and 6+7+8+7=28) and a color (pitch series) of 12 notes (F4, B4, G4, C sharp 5, F4, B3, G3, C sharp 4, F3, B4, G4, and D sharp 4) - the form requiring four repeats of the melodic pattern and three repeats of the rhythmic pattern for a completion of the cycle (48 notes).
Duration: 6 min.
The composer cites as influences on this work: Henry Cowell (1897-1965) and his monumental publication of New Musical Resources (1930) ; Kyle Gann's The Music of Conlon Nancarrow (1995) ; I Ching, or ‘Book of Changes’ ; Tempo canons ; Isorhythm.
Performances of this work
15 Jul 18: Conservatorio Profesional de Xàbia, II European Meeting of Contemporary Percussion, Xàbia, Alacante, Spain
24 Nov 12: Rainy Days 2012 Festival de Musique Nouvelle, Philharmonie Luxembourg, Luxembourg. Featuring Phyllis Chen.
12 Jun 11: Extensible Toy Piano Festival, Bargemusic, Brooklyn, New York, USA. Featuring Phyllis Chen.
24 Mar 11: Barbès, Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York, USA. Featuring Phyllis Chen.
8 May 10: Gary Snyder/Project Space, 2010 Look & Listen Festival, New York, NY, USA. Featuring Phyllis Chen.
1 Dec 09: PianoForte Studios, Chicago, IL, USA. Featuring Phyllis Chen.
20 Sep 09: Performance at the 11th Annual World Music Festival: Chicago, Preston-Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL, USA. Featuring Phyllis Chen.
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