Music Musicology Poetry Gallery

Needham Series
1980, 13:51 min.


Terpsichore is a work of great contrasts of density, registers, and dynamics. It owes its title to the Greek goddess of dance as it was commissioned to accompany the choreography Plexus by Peg Brightman, Massachusetts Dance Ensemble. It was produced during night hours in the Computer Science Department of the University of Toronto with the aid of the SSSP synthesizer stationed there, sometimes interrupted by the launch of other computer "batches".

The first two movements have in common extremely rapid, often acoustically subtle, streams of sound. The second movement is a set of variations of an equally percussive but more song-like nature. In contrast, the concluding, third movement is overall slower in pace and even more song-like. Throughout, the musical flow is punctuated by silences.

As described in Tom Licata's Electroacoustic Music: Analytical Perspectives (Greenwood Press, 2002), the compositional method in Terpsichore is highly systematic, in that it employs three different computer programs: the first for score synthesis (Koenig's PROJECT ONE), the second for score manipulation (Buxton's SCED), and the third for sound synthesis (Buxton's SSSP synthesizer).

Initially, I defined seven base scores produced through Koenig's Project One program. From this kernel, I derived all remaining scores in a rule-based manner using compositional macros available in Buxton's SCED program. As a consequence, all syntactic materials are variants of the unifying base scores employed. Only in the last movement did I deviate from this rule-based procedure. Instead of it, I selected from the base material a striking motive and used conventional contrapuntal methods in shaping it.

The work, which is dedicated to the choreographer, was first performed at the Joy of Movement Center, Cambridge, MA. Other performances include: IPEM, Ghent (1980), Intern. Computer Music Conference, Flushing, N.Y. (1980), Hartford Public Library (1980), IRCAM, Paris (1981), Intern. Conf. on Music and Technology, Melbourne, Australia (1981), Stuttgart Planetarium, Stuttgart, Germany (1981), Sala Polivalente, Ferrara, Italy (1981), Quarto Colloquio di Informatica Musicale, CNUCE, Pisa, Italy (1981), Institute of Sonology, Utrecht (1981), International Intermedia Foundation, New York City (1982), First International Alternative Music Project, Tokyo (1982). Terpsichore appeared on Neuma Records no. VII in 2006.