Piece of Work

Piece of Work
(2005) excerpt
David Claman, laptop

“Piece of Work” is for live improvisation using toy piano samples. It uses a Max/MSP patch I wrote. (Thanks to Matt Ostrowski at Harvestworks for the great Max/MSP tutorials. Highly recommended.) A series of events led to the composition of this piece and also followed from it. While teaching a course on experimental music in 2002, I became reacquainted with John Cage’s wonderful toy piano pieces and wanted to write something new for toy piano, but using samples and electronics rather than an acoustic toy piano. I began scouring the web for toy piano samples. Free samples of just about any other instrument were available–this was in 2004–but not toy piano. I asked Matt Malsky at Clark University to help me record toy piano sounds and these have been used to create this piece. These samples were subsequently posted on the internet for others to use and the Extensible Toy Piano Festival (XTP) and other performances developed from this. This piece has four tracks which loop the toy piano notes. The loops can be independent from one another or linked. Playback volume, speed and tempi can be adjusted, creating a kind of primitive polyphony which often sounds remarkably complex. I sometimes made use of that ambiguous area of auditory perception where rapid pulses begin to be perceived as low frequency pitches. The obliquely humorous title refers not only to the fact that artistic creation is, in fact, labor and ought to be compensated as such, but also to a former colleague whose behavior frequently elicited the selfsame exclamation from others.


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