Home     Biography     Performances     Works     Listen & Look      Press      Surveys     Programme notes     Links

Gwyn Pritchard: Demise
piano. Percussion trio & electronics (1994)

Ironically, although the piano is nominally a percussion instrument, it is in many respects fundamentally incompatible with most other percussion instruments (particularly unpitched ones), unless the percussion is to be used ‘cosmetically’ in relation to the piano's material - a very unattractive option! The piano's resonant timbre has, after all, been developed specifically for purposes of blending, sustaining and projecting pitches and harmonies, and so timbral considerations necessarily remain subordinate to pitch;  whereas  the opposite is true for unpitched percussion.

What can be ascribed to both of course is rhythm (the commonest solution to the problem), but pushing that to the front of the musical stage also means subordinating those essential qualities of pitch on the one hand or timbre on the other.  So  if they are to be brought into close musical proximity both piano and percussion must relinquish most of their natural identity, and become subsumed in what little there is that they have in common - again an unpromising option!

Initially this piece set out to examine the inevitable demise of musical materials which try to exist in the space between these two poles (with electronics serving to spotlight specific points en route).  If, in the end, it is not exactly about all that then it may be heard as the demise of an (impossible?) idea - but then (according to the Oxford Dictionary) ‘demise’ doesn't only suggest the death of something - but the handing on of what remains.....

Demise was commissioned by The Basel Percussion Trio and was first performed by them with Daniel Cholette (paino) and Alex Buess (electronics) at the Huddersfield Festival in 1994.

Return to Texts index