Ay mi! (Machaut in the Machine Age IV) is one of a number of pieces I’ve been making since the 1980s responding to the delightful secular music of the 14th century French composer Guillaume de Machaut.
This one was made for a 1960s era Magnus electric chord organ given to me by the composer Art Jarvinen. The instrument is about the size of a toy piano and has a two octave range. I made a piece for twisted tutu, my duo at the time with Kathleen Supové, where she played the chord organ’s keyboard while I played the percussion part on the plastic case of the organ. We attached contact mics to the instrument and doubled the pitch down a fifth, as well as applying a delay at the beginning and the end of the piece.
TO THE PERFORMERS
If you have access to a chord organ, that’s the ideal instrument for performing the piece. But of course, you can play the chord organ part on a synthesizer, which you should set up with an organ patch and a pitch shifter that gives you both the notated pitch and the fifth below (i.e. transpose by -7 semitones).
In addition, you want to set up a delay that captures both the percussion and the keyboard. Set the delay to repeat at the interval of one bar of 6/8 in whatever tempo you’re playing the piece. It will be 2000 ms if you’re playing the piece at the tempo I’ve specified. The feedback/regen should give you between seven and eight reps before it fades to zero. The score indicates where to turn on and off the delay; you’ll want to put it on a switch you can activate or bypass easily.
If you don’t have a chord organ, but you happen to have a harmonium, an accordion or another suitable instrument available, please feel free to perform it on your instrument, I’d love that!
And of course the percussion part can be done by clapping or patting your own body if tapping the keyboard player’s instrument isn’t the right thing. And if you have other ideas for the percussion part, I’m very flexible about it!
Ay mi! (Machaut in the Machine Age IV) is part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. You can hear my synth version by visiting 17 July.
For a performing materials, please click the buy button below. The suggested price is $12, but you can choose your own price based on your situation, with my thanks for supporting this low-key way of publishing:
Play Like a Girl was commissioned for the BASK Collective by the University of Idaho for a multimedia project in which the keyboard player, Kristin Elgersma, asked for the possibility of playing either grand piano or toy piano, or both, depending on performance constraints. My solution was to write a set of eight variations on Kaval Sviri, one of those Bulgarian Women’s Chorus pieces that were a surprise hit in the late 1980’s. If their ferociously joyous singing is girl music, I’m there! Some of my variations are for grand piano, some for toy piano, and some for celeste or harpsichord or other “girly” instruments, I’m open for you to arrange and adapt as you like. The variations can be played in any combination, simultaneously (with pre-recorded tracks) or successively, allowing for a total of eight factorial (40,320) versions of the piece.
After I completed the piece, I learned that the same song had been adapted as the theme music for the late 90s cult classic TV show Xena: Warrior Princess. Now that I’ve checked out the show, I’m definitely enjoying picturing Lucy Lawless in full battle garb playing the toy piano like the girl she is.
Here is a link to the Bulgarian State Women’s Chorus performance of the arrangement that inspired my piece:
Here is a score of the complete piece in pdf format.
Play Like a Girl is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days, where I post a different version of the piece on the 13th of each month. I’ve also made a downloadable streamable playlist of various demos and live performances, check it out!
I normally charge $50 for the performing materials for this piece, but I’ve made it pay-as-you-like for the duration of the pandemic. When you click the Buy Now button below and pay whatever you choose (including nothing), you’ll get a link to download all eight individual scores and recordings, along with various arrangements I’ve made, which will give you the materials you need to make your own version of the piece. If you’d like an Ableton Live session with my MIDI and pre-recorded tracks already set up for karaoke-style playback and re-mixing, I can send you that also.
You can also read a short take on “being a girl” in the second paragraph of this blog post from The River Project.
Wonder Counselor gets its title from the Jerusalem Bible translation of Isaiah 9:6, which is more familiarly translated as “…his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” I am delighted by the idea of a higher power serving as my wonder counselor, maybe dressed as a scout leader, taking me around to point out the marvels of the world. While I was initially thinking about the piece, I did a concordance search for the word “wonderful” in the Bible and found the following proverb:
Three things are too wonderful for me;
four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a serpent on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden.
The piece embeds these four wonderful sounds into an electronically transformed recording of a single organ sonority. The live organist then plays a loose set of variations on the sequence “Res est admirabilis” (“It is a wondrous thing”) from the thirteenth century Gradual of Eleanor of Brittany. The sequence is aptly-named: it has some of the strangest counterpoint I have ever heard. I was introduced to it by Marcel Peres’ excellent recording.
Wonder Counselor was commissioned by the American Guild of Organists to celebrate their 100th Anniversary and premiered at their National Convention by Kyler Brown at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York in July 1996. I want to thank Kyler Brown and Reverend Edgar F. Wells for their advice and insight while I was making this piece.
To play the complete piece single-handedly requires a four-manual organ, and is very difficult! Please contact me if you would like that solo version. In the meantime, I have made a duo version which can be performed by two live players, or with KBD2 pre-recorded (or MIDI-controlled) and KBD1 played live by a single player.
Performance materials for the piece normally cost $50, but for the duration of the pandemic, you are welcome to name your own price. Thanks for supporting this low-key way of publishing!
All U Got 2 Do was inspired by a sermonette by Reverend Milton Brunson which appears on a 1990 release called Black Gospel Explosion.
all you got to do is
and god’ll give you the power
won’t he do it?
somebody know what I’m talking about?
won’t he give you
power to live right
power to think right
power to speak right
power to do right
god’ll give you
Reverend Milton Brunson
Along with the Brunson text, the piece uses a transformed recording of the introduction to the Benedictus of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. The live player tries to follow the Reverend’s advice by playing as few notes with as much attention as possible. The piece was originally written for Hammond organ, but it has been played on violin and on clarinet. Other instruments might work as well, I’m open to you trying it. The score is minimally notated: you will want to shape the expression of the piece in your own way. The best performances will create a fragile balance between immobility and hope.
All U Got 2 Do is part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. You can hear David Steele’s clarinet version at 3 August, along with the video by Matt Petty, which is part of the multimedia show, Lighten Up.