Essay for Computer (1998)

I typically use the music engraving program Finale to print out my scores. This program allows one to hear the music played back, using MIDI sounds. This can often yield a rather unmusical result. However, one thing this program does well is play things fast, beyond human speed. (Also out of instrumental range!)

I decided to use these characteristics to my advantage. Inspired by the fast left hand patterns in solo piano pieces by Chopin (Etude No. 12, for instance) and Rachmaninov, I wrote two bars of my own. Then I cut and pasted the pattern many times, transposing it, emphasizing syncopated rhythms.

This piece tries out a few timbres in succession. The saxophone patch proved very adequate for this sort of music, because it fades out when playing low pitches but it is very present when it reaches higher notes. This causes the sound to crescendo when the pitches rise and to decrease when the pitches descend, imitating the dynamic pattern a pianist would use.

There is one unintentionally created but intentionally kept moment in this piece. I used a microphone to record the piece from the MIDI keyboard. Near the end of the piece, a police car drove by, adding a distant siren sound. When I listened to the recording, the resulting effect was quite pleasing, so it was kept.