Program Notes


Dulcimer Dream for piano (1985)


Dulcimer Dream represents a continuation of my interest in the piano as a unique musical system. It exploits the piano's ability to act as a "super-dulcimer", to build and sustain resonant drone structures which, at present, cannot be duplicated by analog or digital sound synthesizers.


The computer's role in the composition of the work was that of a mathematical assistant. An algorithm was encoded to generate nonlinear "first species" melodic patterns derived from a predetermined tonal plan. The performer generates an uninterrupted flow of rapid, uniform pulses that melodically outline a series of chords in protracted harmonic rhythm. The damper pedal is depressed throughout the work, to create a seamless, evolving timbre spectrum. This continuum shifts in color and density as a consequence of the pianist's tactile, temporal, and dynamic controls, as well as the composer's harmonic, accentual, and octave register determinants. Non-harmonic tones in a semitone relationship to various chord members are gradually introduced and resolved. The process continues until the apex of the work, at which point the balance shifts to a preponderance of non-harmonic tones, then returns to more consonant sonorities. Although intended for performance by means of audience-encircling amplification, the piece may be performed without electronic enhancement in chamber music spaces.


Dulcimer Dream was specifically influenced by my experimental photographic work, which harnesses liquid chemical flow processes and free solar light to produce archival exhibition silver prints. The resultant imagery is often suggestive of the southwestern United States landscape, with its characteristic recessive planes and earth tone colors.