Ocean Seal Uisang (625-702)

piano and computer generated tape

Robert Morris

Program Notes

Exchanges was written for the pianist, David Burge, in the summer of 1982 and first performed at the International Conference of Computer Music held at the Eastman School in 1983. In 1989, I was able to improve aspects of the computer generated sounds and to make other minor compositional changes to the work.

The piece is written in eleven large parts, each with a different interaction between the computer sounds and piano. The piece can be heard as a struggle for dominance between the tape and soloist. After an initial sparing match, either the tape or piano "wins" a round of conflict with the stakes raised for each successive match; the conflict heightens to a climax where the tape sounds seem to have won a decisive victory. This is subsequently "confirmed" by the more pensive piano writing and underlined by a long solo F sharp drone in the computer sounds. Nevertheless, the piano at long last rouses itself to fight back, until the last gesture where the piano ultimately surpasses the computer sounds, commanding a phrase connecting its lowest and highest tones thereby surrounding and surpassing the pitch range of the computer sounds.

Exchanges was written at a time when I was especially interested in finding new ways to make music that can flow at different and embedded speeds of time. Such hierarchic processes are fundamental to the syntax and form of classical tonal music in which one can listen to the music at the note-to-note level, the "phrase level", right up to the level of intermovement contrasts and affiliations.