Barber's Dozen (2008)

Barber's Dozen is a composition for computer-synthesized bells, optionally accompanied by any combination of metallophones tuned to the same 12-pitch-per-octave equal temperament. The piece is designed to be performable in a number of different venues, and can last any length of time above about three minutes. It has been performed outdoors with carillon accompaniment, and I plan to have it performed as a sound installation over the course of several hours, with and without metallophone accompaniment.

The electronic bell sounds are situated in a 13-pitch-per-octave equal temperament; moreover the overtone content of each of the various bell timbres is derived from this temperament as well. A computer is instructed to "improvise" on the bell sounds in a strictly controlled manner, and with different material for each of the thirteen sections. The sections are defined more by changes in the repetition of register and pitch than by overall texture, so the boundaries may be difficult to apprehend. Metallophone performers are also instructed to improvise, but in response to the textures created by the computer, and on rather less complex musical content subtly related to the material in the electronic music. At section boundaries the metallophone ensemble collectively changes its harmony. In all cases I regard the role of the metallophones as accompanimental. The performance always ends with the lowest pitch in the metallophone ensemble, unless the piece is performed with the synthesized bells only.

For those interested, the electronic part is synthesized and controlled using the computer music language “Supercollider 3,” which is open-source, cross-platform, and free for anyone to download and use.