Instrumental Music Sampling
For Morton Feldman (1988), piano solo.Score
- For Morton Feldman was written in January, 1988 for pianist John Tilbury. It received its premiere in February of 1988 at the Exploratorium in San Francisco with the composer at the piano.
before Venice (1982), piano solo. Score
- Originally included in The Buffalo Piano Collection (1982), a compilation of short pieces solicited from composers—past and present—who had studied at SUNY at Buffalo, before Venice shows a reverence for several musical tenets throughout history. I salute the ritornelli of Monteverdi, the WTC Preludes of Bach, the Scherzo of the Hammerklavier, and repetitive music of 1980, with an additional nod to Czerny and Hanon.
Beethoven in SoHo (1980), 2 pianos and electric bass.Score
I believe that Beethoven, if he were alive today, would have a loft in lower Manhattan rather than a high-rise apartment on Riverside Drive or West End Avenue.
-- Peter Gena, from program notes for the catalog to New Music America ‘81, San Francisco.
It was in the early 1970s, during a graduate class taught by Lejaren Hiller, that we applied information theory to music vis-à-vis entropy and redundancy. Back then in our circle, two recent books, Information theory and Esthetic Perception (Abraham Moles, 1966), and On Human Communication (Colin Cherry, 1957, 1966) were quite the rage. As an illustration of musical redundancy, I was asked to go through Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 10, Op. 31 #3 and edit out repeated (i.e., redundant) phrases and sequences. The result was a score with less than half of the original pages. Years later, I became intrigued by the idea of emphasizing redundancy as a catalyst for focusing attention.
Beethoven in SoHo, uses relevant surface material from the last movement of his Piano Sonata, Op. 54. I tried to fuse my ongoing interest in sound-continuum with the gradual unfolding of melodic and rhythmic events that existed inherently in the order of repeated fragments. Hence, while the original material approaches abstraction, the perception of form emanates as a product of process.
Stabiles, First Clone (1978), ensemble. Score
- This is a computer-aided variance of the piano piece, Stabiles (see below). The program used was MUSICOL (SUNY at Buffalo Technical Report No. 7: Gena, Peter. "MUSICOL Manual, Version 1, [MUSical Instruction Composition Oriented Language] for the 6400 Digital Computer," 1973.), a compositional language that employed user-selected stochastic processes in user-constructed time-blocks. The instruction set was made up entirely of musical mnemonics, while the output could have been dumped to a plotter program such as Donald Byrd's "SMUT" (System for Music Transcription) software [Byrd. Indiana University, 1984], or the default text printout by successive beats and subdivisions. Following are the original program notes for the performance at the 1978 International Computer Music Conference in Evanston, IL.
In a world of test-tube babies, it seems that musical cloning is well overdue. For many of use who employ the computer as a decision-maker in the actual compositional process, a method for synthetically assisting in a personally stylistic manner is attractive.
Stabiles, First Clone was generated from the musical material of my Stabiles, after Alexander Calder (1976), for piano. The parametric constraints and probabilities of textural densities were programmed for ten instruments in MUSICOL (Musical Instruction Composition-Oriented Language), a composing language that uses an instruction set of musical mnemonics.
This first clone basically inherits the specific sonic characteristics of the host piece by overlaying instruments according to density probabilities calculated from the piano work. Thus, use of the computer is this way enhances my ongoing interest in sustaining a sound continuum of varying timbres in an apparent unstructured time-framework. Subsequent clones can emphasize similar and/or diverse, personal features of the host piece. In other words, the new creation is more than a variation is more than just a variation, as it bears an uncanny resemblance to the host, but inevitably it manifests a divergent musical personality. Furthermore, subtleties of a composer's style can be developed and exploited.
Perhaps for composers, the ramifications of cloning an indefinite number of new works from a previous one may raise new aesthetic, philosophical, and even moral issues. Frankly, the whole idea scares the hell out of me. -- Peter Gena, November, 1978.
Valse (1977), piano solo, for The Waltz Project[C.F. Peters]. Nonesuch Records #D79011 | First Page | NYC Ballet|
- Just as Alan Stout has written the loudest, most ferocious work of the collection, Peter Gena has written the softest. The performer is instructed to place a wedge in the sustaining pedal after silently depressing a cluster of notes. Thus, throughout the piece, a ghost-like harmonic structure appears when other notes are sounded. There is a repeated two-note figure throughout which changes only at the very end. The effect is minimal but, in fact, quite unlike that of Philip Glass. This is a piece about unheard melodiesor, perhaps, once heard, now half forgotten. The work suggests the musical equivalent of Robert Rauschenbergs famous Erased de Kooning where he literally rubbed out most of the original sketch. Genas VALSE is dedicated to the undersigned. -- Robert Moran, from the liner notes to the Nonesuch recording.
Waltzes by 25 Contemporary Composers, was published in 1978 by C.F. Peters (New York). The collection of short, individual pieces was conceived, commissioned and compiled by composers Robert Moran and Robert Helps. A performance of all twenty-five debuted that year in the Sullivan Trading Room at the Art Institute of Chicago, and were subsequently produced at the Kitchen in New York. A selection of seventeen of the waltzes was recorded in 1981 by Nonesuch Records, NYC. Over the years many of them found their way into dance repertories. Phyllis Lamhut choreographed The Waltz Project for performances at the Delacorte Dance Festival in Central Park, The Riverside Dance Festival (Riverside Church), and elsewhere outside of New York. Peter Martins, director of the New York City Ballet, choreographed 11 of them for the American New Music Festival at Lincoln Center, where multiple performances took place there and at the Saratoga Summer Festival, in 1988. Martins production remains in the NYC Ballets repertory today, where there have been numerous repeat performances at Lincoln Center over the years. Subsequently, the Houston, San Francisco, and Fort Lauderdale Ballet companies adapted the project as well, and selections from the recording have been aired over the radio worldwide.
Stabiles (1976), piano solo. Score | YouTube (Iris Gerber, piano)
- Stabiles was written for the late pianist Philip Lorenz who premiered the piece in 1977 at Northwestern University. The tempo for each sonority is determined by the natural beats resulting from the sound in the piano. A selection of pitches are held permanently by the sustaining pedal, providing a ground sonority.