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Insonic counterpoint for 4 computer pianos

Karlshruhe | Germany
25 September, 2021

Concert of self-playing grand pianos controlled by integrating instrument and computer

Probably the most successful acoustic music machines are concert grand pianos that can be controlled by integrating instrument and computer. Their development follows a long history from autonomously playing player pianos to Nancarrow's precise paper roll control with pneumatic mechanics. Computerised grand pianos enable an unimagined rhythmic precision, which is also articulated as spatial sound when several instruments are used. With the kind support of the ComputerStudio of the Karlsruhe University of Music, which made this concert possible by lending three computer pianos, a total of four computer pianos were controlled by a computer in the large sound space of the ZKM foyer.

For this, Klarenz Barlow arranged the famous “Studies” by Conlon Nancarrow for this cast and created his own surprising polyphonic works in an astonishing stylistic variety.

In addition, the masterful and visionary “Eight Sketches – Duet for one Pianist” by Jean-Claude Risset were presented. In it, Jean-Claude Risset interweaves the actions of the performer Susanne Achilles with those of the computer controlled by Michael Edwards, which continuously intervenes in the pianist's playing.

Ludger Brümmer pushed the boundaries of spatial hearing and the subtlety of grand piano mechanics with his work “Between twilight”. The work, commissioned by the Philharmonie Essen, was heard here for the first time in the version for four pianos.

Another highlight was presented by the Duisburg composer Jagyeong Ryu with her exciting world premiere “Wenn ich auf den Flügeln singe ...”.

In addition to the evening concert, the grand pianos enlived the foyer of the ZKM with hourly interventions during the day on September 25 and 26. The joint composition “Kla4” by the Essen composers Dirk Reith, Thomas Neuhaus, Michael Edwards and Günter Steinke, presented as a sound installation, was heard, in which their different algorithmic approaches meet in a communicative, complementary and divergent interplay. Excerpts from these works were also interspersed in the evening programme.


Klarenz Barlow
“Pandora” from “Orchideæ Ordinariæ” (1989), 7’28’’

Conlon Nancarrow
“Studies for Player Piano” Nr. 7, 8‘18‘‘ *

Thomas Neuhaus
“TN6” from the cycle “Kla4” (2019), 1’46’’

Klarenz Barlow
„kuri suti bekar“ (1998), 3‘16‘‘

Conlon Nancarrow
“Studies for Player Piano” Nr. 6, 3‘38‘‘ *

Klarenz Barlow
„Estudio siete“, (1995), 1’53’’

Günter Steinke
“GS4« from the cycle »Kla4” (2019), 4’05’’

Jagyeong Ryu
„Wenn ich auf den Flügeln singe, …“ for 4 MIDI-pianos (2021), 12‘15‘‘, Premiere
Commissioned by ZKM, funded as part of the project »EASTN-DC«, cofinanced by the funding program »Creative Europe« of the European Union

Jean-Claude Risset
“Eight Sketches - Duet for one Pianist” for MIDI-piano and computer (1989), 17’
Solo piano: Susanne Achilles
Computer: Michael Edwards

Dirk Reith
“DR2” from the cycle “Kla4” (2019), 2’31’'

Conlon Nancarrow
“Studies for Player Piano” Nr. 21, 2‘46‘‘ *

Klarenz Barlow
„otodeblu“, (1990), 4’06’

Michael Edwards
“gold im bach” part 1, from the cycle “Kla4” (2019), 4’58''

Conlon Nancarrow
“Studies for Player Piano” Nr. 19, 1‘11‘‘ *

Klarenz Barlow
“septima de facto” (2005), 6‘45‘‘

Ludger Brümmer
“between twilight” for 4 MIDI-pianos (2