the influencing machine

Saxophone quartet, midi-piano.

the influencing machine (excerpt)

the influencing machine was inspired by the idea that mechanical speed (digital speed) exists on a different plane to cognitive speed (analogue speed), and that in music there is a grey area where these two meet. Although in the end the piece took on a more overt non-musical image (the classic idea that the media, the reflection of our desires, have a complete control over our social behaviour), the musical ideas worked out in it, still have an influence on my current work.

In each of the three moto perpetuos, a different perspective is taken on the same material and on the same process, the deterioration of a straight musical pulse into a swinging pulse. This transformation can be compared to the change of scale from macro to micro perspective. In terms of how this relates to musical performance it is the difference between being outside the musical material (composition, objectivity), and being inside it (performance, trance).

In the 1st movement, the mechanical piano tries to finds paths between the blocks of material (the different rhythmic feels). Each time it fails, it returns to a previous path, but with a more corrupted pulse. The saxophone quartet are drawn into the imitation game, from voyeurs to participants.

In the 2nd movement, the pulse created in the saxophones in the end of the last movement is broken down in a similar way to how the pianola transformed itself before, except this time the harmonic progressions also change gradually.

The 3rd movement, more or less in rondo form, plays more explicitly with scale. In each repetition of the A theme the saxophones halve their tempo, and the movement of the piano becomes more blurred, that is it becomes more objectified and static in its acceleration. The harmonic rhythm comes to a standstill.

performance history

  • May 1994; Premiered by saxophone quartet (with Michiel v. Dijk, David Kweksilber, Frank Timpe) at Koninklijk Conservatorium.
  • 1994; Selected for the Gaudeamus Festival, Ysbreker, Amsterdam.