for computer-operating pianist or pianist with tape
Commissioned by Philip Mead with funds made available by Eastern Arts Association and by Acorn Computers Ltd, this composition was specifically designed for the Acorn Music 500 synthesizer (designed by Chris Jordan for Acorn Computers) running on the BBC B Micro-computer.
This work sets out to test the relative abilities of the human and the machine. We know from simple computer games that the machine is more than our match in speed and calculating power. We know from listening to many optimistic computer music systems and their inventors that the realistic imitation of a single instrumental sound, like a sustained note on a grand piano, can still defeat the most sophisticated technology. The piece then is itself a ‘game’, or contest, and hopefully an entertaining one. It is also an analogy for the feedback process between live musician and technology which can make working with digital systems creatively so rewarding. The title is ambivalent, implying both a ‘musical composition’ and ‘effort’ or ‘exertion’. The pianist is made to ‘work’, both physically and mentally, in order to match the speed and precision of the computer. However, the computer, too, is put through its paces in passages where it is called upon to emulate the human expressivity and spontaneity of the piano soloist. The composer would like to thank Graham Naylor for his invaluable assistance in programming the computer part of ‘WORK’.
© 1985 Tim Souster