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seth horvitz - Eight Studies for Automatic Piano
Completely brilliant, brain-boxing suite of piano minimalism from Seth Horvitz, inspired by the works of James Tenney, Ligeti, Charlemagne Palestine and Conlon Nancarrow. The aim of Eight Studies was apparently to use simple computer-aided compositional pieces to "test the limits of human perception and machine precision"; it was performed by a Yamaha Disklavier C7 without the presence of a single human being, and recorded live; indeed, it's a work that questions the very nature of "live". It's pointless to go into too much depth about the techniques deployed - the curious can download an in-depth Listener's Guide from the L-ne website - but to take just one example, 'Study No.2: An Approximate Series of Approximate Harmonic Series' finds Horvitz (or at least his electronic avatar) introducing a basic repeating shape and systematically layering it, transposing it, and rhythmically offsetting it against itself. Then, in Reichian style, the length of each repeating shape is incrementally shortened, producing a rhythmic phasing process. It's huge credit to Horvitz that his rigorously mathematical approaches to composing nonetheless yield richly melodic music, lyrical and addictive. Once you've digested this remarkable album, you'll never think of the piano the same way again.