Sask New Music concert series has a robot piano: Preview

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Saskatoon music composers launch three part concert series

Sask New Music, an education and performance society, is launching a three-part concert series starting Friday, June 7. The series, which continues with shows on June 8 and 9, aims to showcase a group of composers and musical styles that are typically more obscure in Saskatoon’s music scene.

Sask New Music composer Darren Miller says that all three concerts will feature classical music by living composers, with the vast majority being from the prairies. But anyone interested in avant-garde compositions will get something out of the experience.

After all, it’s not every day you get to see a robot piano.

“The robot piano is really cool and complicated, but in essence it’s just a player piano that you can hook a computer up to. I say ‘just’, but you can really do a lot of crazy stuff once you’ve got access to every aspect of the piano via computer… any kind of data can control the playing,” says Miller.

“I’ve written some software that maps the dials, buttons, and sliders of the controller so as to allow me to shape the material, speed, and volume of the robot piano in real-time along with two human pianists. Jeff Morton has a piece on the concert that uses a human player on the same keys that the robot is controlling, so it’s a kind of obstacle course for the human, but their playing meshes together to form a coherent musical whole. That one should be really fun to watch. And Janet Gieck is using 12 human hands in her piece, so there’s a real theatrical element to the Sunday night concert, largely inspired by the robotics.”

In addition to the concert performances, including a saxophone piece by Winnipeg composer Gordon Fitzell called “Orb of the Sun” that explores extended playing techniques, Miller says that the weekend will also feature roundtable discussions and clinics.

Coming from the punk/underground scenes, I’ve always had a bit of an independent spirit when it comes to putting on musical events

“Stylistically, I’d say that we’re somewhere about halfway between the activities of concert societies like Ritornello and the Saskatoon Composers’ Performance Society, and some of the new media events taking place in conjunction with Paved Arts.

“I think more than anything though I see our strongest connections to the scene in terms of the DIY and cooperative aspects that go hand in hand with all independent music in Saskatoon,” he continues. “Personally, coming from the punk/underground scenes, I’ve always had a bit of an independent spirit when it comes to putting on musical events. And Paul’s background in the Jazz scene has a lot of that influence as well.

“That’s another big parallel to the indie scenes in town, and I think it has a lot to do with the geographic isolation and relative size of Saskatoon. Everybody knows that they have to work together if they want to build something, and that’s pretty awesome.”

For more information on Sask New Music and the concert series click HERE.