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Musical Score

Peer reviewed


SoundPlay explores qualities of tuning by placing the grand piano in dialogue with samples derived from a dilapidated upright piano. As sonic objects these samples have properties unique to that one particular instrument and represent a kind of 'found' tuning—that is to say they possess idiosyncratic and waywardly non-linear spectral characteristics, resulting from neglect and physical damage to the instrument, arising naturally and serendipitously over time. Many of the individual ‘notes’ sampled extend beyond distorted intonation and into noisy or bell-like sonorities. By bringing these together with sounds of the fixed, equal tempered tuning of the 'true' piano the work aims to set up tensions and resolutions through inherent discrepancies in temperament and timbre. Some are subtle in quality with closely aligned pitch while detailed digital manipulation of the spectral content of the samples allowed the creation of more spectrally fused elaboration of the piano timbre—implying moments in which we might be hearing a ‘meta-instrument’. At some points the distance between the piano and electroacoustic sound world is emphasised with noisy outbursts, but they also converge with zones of spectral fusion and near-fusion in sequences of harmonic resolution and through synchronised gestural action. The interval of the octave features in much of the piano writing as a means to stress moments of harmonic resolution and also to anchor gestural coruscation around flavours of stable pitch. At another level—which impacted significantly on the way material was developed and shaped in the compositional process—SoundPlay builds on the notion of what it means to be ‘fixed’ in sonorous terms: the consistently structured tuning of the ‘live’ piano integrated with often fragile, uniquely shaped sampled sound forms.


SoundPlay was commissioned by the Sidén-Hedman Duo (Stockholm), and premiered in PACE Studio 1, De Montfort University, Leicester by Eva Sidén on 16 November, 2021. The work consists of piano score and 119 stereo audio sound files, cued in a MAX patch by the pianist.


electroacoustic music, Spectralism, alternative intonation


Young, J. (2021) SoundPlay, for piano and electroacoustic sounds, dur. 11'30".


Research Institute

Music, Technology and Innovation - Institute for Sonic Creativity (MTI2)