Playing with Pitch

In his new composition “Swirling Sky,” University of Wisconsin Oshkosh faculty member Ed Martin created a unique melodic piece for live piano and fixed electronic playback that includes certain pitches or microtones that don’t exist on the piano.

“The pitches are located in the cracks between those heard when the piano’s keys are pressed,” Martin explained.

Composed for fellow UW Oshkosh music faculty member Jeri-Mae Astolfi’s new CD, Here (and there): Music for Piano and Electronics on the Innova Recordings label, the vivid work recalls “peaceful moments spent lying in the grass, gazing at cloud formations drifting above. “

For this collaboration, Martin created the composition using computer software. His work was funded by a UW Oshkosh Faculty Development Research Grant.

Astolfi, who performed the piece as part of the University’s elegant Musica Viva! fundraising event held in April, said the composition is fascinating to play because of the unique pitches and the challenge of intertwining the live piano with the recorded sounds emanating from speakers.

She must don an ear piece while performing in order to play accurately with the recorded track.

“The result is a totally different sound spectrum for the audience to experience,” Astolfi said.

Since it was composed in 2012, Astolfi has performed “Swirling Sky” throughout the nation, including at the 2012 National Conference of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, the 2012 Third Practice Festival and the 2013 National Conference of the Society of Composers.

Hear “Swirling Sky.”

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2 Comments

  1. Jack Neeson says:

    Beautiful piece. Played it twice. Second time with closed eyes imaging a dramatic scenic change from a serene
    blue sky with a few puffy clouds, through a Nor-eastern
    rain storm, and back to serenity. I wonder what Mozart
    might have done had he had available the electronic wizardry of our times. Congratulations ED!

  2. Barbara Robinson says:

    Totally agree! Beautiful!

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