László Vidovszky László Vidovszky: Etudes for MIDI piano
The MIDI-piano is one of the most pronounced embodiments of the important but dubious connection between technical development and musical instruments. This alienated structure with its cables, opto-electronical sensors and selenic-motors fixed on the body of an instrument of classical proportions reminds us most of space-monsters in science-fiction films, it is a more exact copy of a real piano than today's products of commercialised instrument-making. This duality (traditional sound and mechanical control) means new opportunities mainly in two fields: in the approach of rhythm and dynamics.
About the album
Recorded at the Tom-Tom Studio, Budapest
Recording engineer: Károly Paczári
Piano: Yamaha Disklavier
Music Published by Editio Musica Budapest
Photos: László Körtvélyesi, Örs Harnóczy
Produced by László Gőz
László Vidovszky: Etudes for MIDI piano – Book 1
László Vidovszky: Etudes for MIDI piano – Book 2
At present there are four books in the series: the first three are for solo piano, the fourth is for two pianos, some pieces of which include instruments of a divergent tuning system.
The pianola is one of the clearest embodiments of the important, yet problematic relationship between musical instruments and technical advances. Of all the instruments, the piano's “motorisation” may have seemed the most justified: the classic English Mechanism is the absolute apotheosis of a simple machine, of the lever, transcending its primitive principle in its capacity to serve the imagination of the great performers. Subsequent development of the piano, on the other hand, resulted in less categorical success, for the pianola was pushed to the periphery of musical life, occupying either shady bars and brothels, or eccentric millionaires' residences, where the owner enjoys the performances of artists alone, as they burst from a perforated card or a floppy disk. Furniture music and musical furniture in one. Added to which is the instrument's apparent servility, yet in its freedom from all the limits of a straining performer, its in every sense of the word, inhuman employment. Somehow this alienated construction, which with cables connecting it to a classically proportioned instrument, opto-electronic sensors and selenium motor brings the space-age monster of a science fiction film to mind most readily, is still a more precise version of real pianos than those produced by the commercialised instrument manufacture of today.
This duality of traditional sound and electronic control signifies new possibilities in two primary areas: rhythm and dynamic. (Pitch is obviously identical between traditional and MIDI instruments, although the potential for timbral variation is far greater on the MIDI piano; striking the keys is always merely reproduction and action, in opposition to the performer's own input, and continuous reactions to the behaviour of the instrument.) Rhythm is broken up (control from 1 and 0.5 milliseconds depending on the computer), dynamics are refined (on a scale from 1 to 127) and the unconventional direct encoding frequently results in solutions which throw new light on traditional ideas. Dynamic concepts previously set in conflict with one another (giusto and rubato, for example,) become degrees, rather than categories: the transformation from one to the other is gradual and scalic. The dynamic differences occurring within single sonorities alter the traditional balance and thus, the impression, of chords.
The pieces primarily represent etude-like solutions to compositional questions, yet they have a number of common threads. Almost every one may be traced to an earlier work (by another composer, or myself), although this remake aspect will not be apparent to most listeners. There are Gregorian, Baroque and Classical pieces hidden within them, from which the listener may recognise a structure or sonority (Futaki Song, Berlioz, Praeludium); sometimes, however, even the database does not reveal anything (Baroque, Drei Choral-Vorspiel-Variationen). The “original” musical material is present just like the “original” piano in the case of the MIDI-piano: as a starting point, reference point, and influence. The final result, however, is not comparable: it is both greater and lesser in one.
The years spent on these works now approaches a decade, during which time I have experimented with a range of computer programmes, even with types of computer; my approach focused on the final result (a MIDI file to be made available as a piano roll), rather than on early concepts, or on the possibilities offered by a variety of computer programmes. In this light the works cannot be categorised simply, although a significant portion of them fit the category of “algo-rhythmic composition”. Where possible, I reran the appropriate algorithm programme (MAX, Patchwork) on the final versions, in order to make corrections and refinements.
László Vidovszky, 1998
English translation © by Rachel Beckles Willson