Composition Department

Keyed Up

for two amplified pianos and digital sound 
Paul Barnes and Ann Change-Barnes, pianos

1. Gadget

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2. Early Reflections

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3. Loose Canons

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Keyed Up (1996) was composed with funding from an Indiana University Fellowship grant for duo pianists Paul and Ann Barnes. The tape portion, created at the University's Center for Electronic and Computer Music, utilizes sampled piano sounds modified with current digital processing techniques, as well as a host of other sounds adapted from the Center's extensive library. My approach to the challenge of combining acoustic and electronic media was to shape the interaction as a double concerto, the electronics providing a broad canvas against which the expressive and technical brilliance of the pianos could shine. The center movement of the work is without tape, designed to stand alone for performances where electronic playback is not available. Keyed Up received the 1996 Lee Ettelson Composer's Award.

I. GADGET was inspired by the arrival at my home of a package containing a mysterious toy, consisting of hundreds of parts but no directions. As my four-year-old waited impatiently for me to construct the toy, it soon began to take on a life of its own, no doubt due to incorrect assemblage, finally self-destructing into the original heap of parts. The tape portion of the movement uses a wide range of modified piano sounds, as well as other timbres suggestive of the subject.

II. EARLY REFLECTIONS for two pianos alone borrows its title from an acoustical term referring to the first sound waves that bounce back from a wall, a concept expressed in the movement's arch form (ABCBA) and pervasive use of inversion and double invertible counterpoint. The sections are related in their use of a progression of intervallic sixths, but each takes a distinctive stylistic approach, from pastoral to ragtime with an attitude. As the title suggests, the musical material derives from a composition written early in my career.

III. LOOSE CANONS, not surprisingly, is loosely canonic-as well as potentially explosive. In many ways, its figuration pays homage to the great two-piano composers of the past, including Rachmaninov and Bartok. It is here that the pianists, as well as the electronic "performer," get to demonstrate their virtuosity in a scherzo-like flurry of musical interaction.

Available on Signals: Instrumental and Electroacoustic Music of Jeffrey Hass (from the IU Marketplace and online retailers)

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