Growth happens all around us, and yet for the most part, is imperceptible - invisible to the naked eye. Growth can be shown to follow natural laws, and yet a single disturbance - a particle of dust or fluctuation of the air - can have profound and unpredictable consequences.
This last point has been on my mind this past year, with the birth of my son Lawrence in August. He was born one month early, and we had a host of scares throughout the pregnancy. All turned out to be benign, but at each step along the way, my wife and I wondered if this would be the disturbance that led us down a dark path - an evolving mixture of joy and fears. Growth happens all around us, and yet, it takes a special approach to reveal its secrets to the naked eye. This is the gift of Dr. Bischofberger’s research, and has inspired me to compose ‘The Phenomena of Growth’, for piano and electronics - a piece that contemplates both the physical processes of growth, and the joy, fear, stress and excitement that growth contributes to our own lives.
The electronic sounds are made from sampled pianos, the Massive subtractive synthesizer, a drum loop in 6/8 time, and recordings of fetal heart beats taken over the past year.
PHENOMENA OF GROWTH for piano and electronics  - 10'00"
Commissioned by the Music of Reality concert series, inspired by the research of Dr. Irmgard Bischofberger of the MIT Fluids Lab, and premiered at Killian Hall, MIT on the 17th of November 2017. View the interactive page for the premiere concert.
- Amplified Piano
- Optional: Electronics Performer/Live Sound Technician
PC/Mac running a suitable DAW - e.g. Ableton or Logic
Amplification: piano amplified in stereo, recommended a pair of AKG 414s placed close to the hammers
Audio interface with one input and a minimum of 3 outputs, recommended 9+
Sound system: minimum stereo, recommended 8 speakers in "French 8" format plus subwoofer
Foldback monitor for the pianist
The Electronics for Phenomena of Growth are provided as a set of fixed-media stereo stems to be played in order. These should be set up in the DAW to be triggered at the appropriate time as notated in the score, either by the pianist, for example with a foot pedal, or by a live electronics performer.
Synchronisation is achieved by listening - the pianist must listen to the cues in the electronics as shown in the score, and the electronics must be cued in time with the piano at the indicated times.
The pianist must familiarise themselves with the fixed-media elements of the electronics in order to understand the underlying rhythmic relationships. Rhythmic cues are provided at key moments, i.e. when a new electronic element enters the texture. For passages indicated as free time, the pianist has rhythmic flexibility, and is encouraged to play with a pronounced rubato. Opposite to this are passages marked as fixed time, where the pianist must precisely follow the pulse as set down by the electronics. Unless otherwise notated, cues are triggered at the beginning of a bar
The piece can be realised in stereo, or for larger sound systems employing live diffusion - the art of painting sound into space.
The piece can be performed with or without an electronics performer, but it is recommended to have one present during rehearsals in order to treat the piano amplification and Electronics tracks with appropriate EQ, and the piano with appropriate reverb to match the acoustic of the room. When performing with a multichannel sound system, an electronics performer is necessary in order to diffuse the stereo Electronics into the space.
Download sample score pages or purchase the score below: