Elsewhere is a Negative Mirror, Part I
For piano with electromagnets


Elsewhere is a Negative Mirror, Part I
is the first installment of a longer piece inspired by Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities. In the novel, over the course of discussions between the emperor Kublai Kahn and the explorer Marco Polo, a host of fantastic cities are described. Each of these cities serves both to convey a specific mood and to reflect the evolving views of reality expressed by the two characters. For the composition, I attempted to utilize Calvino’s wide-ranging philosophical explorations as well as the structure of the novel itself. Part I follows the first section of the book, in which four types of cities are introduced and revisited, in a pattern that recycles city types with increasing rapidity. The performer’s material is constrained by these sections.

In addition to the performer playing the piano, a rack of 12 electromagnets is placed over the piano frame, each electromagnet positioned over a string. These are controlled by a Max/MSP patch, each magnet serving to resonate its respective string at variable frequencies. The dampers for the strings being resonated are held up with the sostenuto pedal, thus forcing the performer to move with care around these resonating pitches. The electromagnets are responsible for the performance of a “supertheme”, which falls outside the careful structure mentioned above, while the performer’s material acts a reflection of each section as conveyed by the supertheme.

Elsewhere is a Negative Mirror, Part I was commissioned by ASCAP/SEAMUS and premiered by Chryssie Nanou.

Performed by Chryssie Nanou