For Disklavier, pianist and Live Coder
“Faith in machinery is our besetting danger... He who works for machinery, works only for confusion. Culture looks beyond machinery” - Matthew Arnold, 1869
The piano keyboard is an interface to notes and chords, and hence to musical expression, while the computer keyboard is an interface to a machine. The cultural value of live coding is that it can transform the computer keyboard into an interface to musical expression through software that enables and empowers the coder. The danger of the Disklavier is that it can turn the piano into a machine by discouraging human interaction with the instrument.
The machinistic aspects of the Disklavier can easily be explored using rudimentary computer software. However in doing so we risk elevating the banality of machinery to a cultural artefact. The goal of Ostinato is to transcend the machinery of the Disklavier by using it to explore the interaction between performer and live coder. The interfaces of the piano keyboard and computer keyboard are the media through which this interaction takes place. Communication between human performers is augmented by a software system that allows for interaction on a musically intuitive level. The live coder performs using a text-based performance system written by the composer and specifically designed for the Disklavier. Commands typed into the software affect how the system reacts to the performance of the pianist. In Ostinato, the system only reacts to the input of a performer, it does not generate any music on its own but rather transforms the pianist's performance by interpreting and augmenting it using pre-defined compositional rules.
Ostinato was first performed at the Live.Code.Festival in Karlsruhe, Germany on April 20th, 2013. The piece is written for and dedicated to pianist Anne Veinberg.