= Touching the Distance – Nigel Morgan

Touching the Distance

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For solo piano

from Study I.

This is a sequence of seven studies with a concluding ‘adventure’. It has been imagined as a private
introduction to a pianist or keyboard duo who would make from this written music an extended improvisation. An ideal performance of the work would, therefore, not feature the written sequence of music at all, but solely what the performer(s) might assemble from the experience of studying and playing the notated material.
Touching the Distance is based on an exploration of two ‘found’ (i.e. by exploration of the hands on a keyboard) tonalities: a pentatonic scale – a kind of gapped locrian mode – and two 4 gapped mixolydian modes meshed together. The exploration is made using functions and routines found in a computer music environment for music composition called Symbolic Composer.

from Adventure.

The fundamental generative function – known as the hopalong algorithm – produces reflective patterns
similar to that made by the famous Mandlebrot fractal. Several of the studies use aspects of open form, which allowed the composer in the first instance to play with the organisation of material.

The final adventure is a kind of collage where material from all the studies is brought together in an adventurous manner. The output from the Lisp code for these studies has only been modified very slightly to avoid a small number of technical difficulties.

For the most part what appears in notation is what was generated by computation. Thus, the work is presented very much in the spirit of the French pioneer of computer music Philippe Barbaud. This output may be performed as either a concert or a recorded piece by a Yamaha Disklavier. In this format it has joined in concert other such open-form works as Karlhienz Essl’s Lexicon Sonate.

from Study 7.


Study score [pdf]

Reference Recording [mp3]

Annotated SCOM score-files [pdf]

Touching the Distance was composed for the conference ‘Leaving the 20C’ at University College Bretton Hall in 1996. It forms the basis of â€˜ Getting Your Hands on the Music a collaborative paper written by Joan Dixon and Nigel Morgan, which can be viewed with visual and musical examples here.