From The Archives: Chords And Beats

by Thomas Brett

Five years ago I wrote a series of pieces for piano and electronic sounds (percussion, bells, sub bass, pads, etc.) called Chords And Beats. The “chords” were improvised on piano, the “beats” and other sounds played on the keyboard to trigger non-piano sounds. Sometimes the chords came first, sometimes the beats came first. Whatever the case, at some point I would be playing along with sounds just recorded, listening to find little synchronies and contrasts and harmonies and discovering a musical form as I went along. All the parts were improvised and done in a single pass, from beginning to end, to give some sense of a performance.

Improvising music can bring about more interesting results than programming it because in improvising I feel that I’m listening closely. And it’s the traces of that listening process in the recorded artifact–embodied in those little hesitations, repetitions, changes of direction, dynamics, and even flat out mistakes–that offer evidence that the music is in some way alive rather than inert (although recordings themselves are ultimately frozen things).

Here is one of the pieces:

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