Neal Farwell - composer - conductor

Songs and Shards

for piano and electronics (2012)
commissioned by Philip Mead

The piano begins in song, simple lines like a lullaby or elegy or something remembered from a distance. The opening paragraph grows from the first phrase, and the whole piece from that paragraph. In growing, something ruptures. The shards are crystalline and bright, like slivers of glass; or dulled and earth-worn, like fragments of an old stoneware pot.

I think of this as a piece for acoustic piano in which the nature of the instrument is extended and unsettled by the electronics. All the sounds come from the physical space of the piano.

The electronics contribute a "resonance" model of the piano, allowing the acoustic partials of the struck strings to be extrapolated, prefigured, or expanded, individually or in large fields; and a "note" model which plays notes using a physical model of the piano (the commercial Pianoteq instrument), but with changes to the acoustic laws for this virtual instrument.

Songs and Shards was commissioned by pianist Philip Mead and received its first performance on 25 April 2012 at the Victoria Rooms, University of Bristol.

with Philip Mead, piano:
Victoria Rooms, Bristol, UK, 25/04/2012.
International Interactive Keyboard Symposium, Goldsmiths College, London, 10/11/2012.
University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK, 9/05/2013.
INTIME 2013, Coventry, UK, 18/10/2013.
ICMC14-SMC14, Athens, 18/09/2014.
London International Piano Symposium, RCM, London, 14/02/2015.
Cultural Exchanges Festival, De Montfort, Leicester, UK, 26/02/2015.

Technical information: The demo recording was made in the studio with MIDI piano, edited to give an impression of the concert work. The concert work uses two loudspeakers placed inside the piano to create an acoustic and spatial fusion with the sound of the instrument itself. The electronic part is created in the Max programming environment from cycling74.