Karlheinz Essl

Pachinko  (2013)  #07mn — première suisse
pour piano jouet et électronique
© Javier Martorell, 2014
En concert
Toy! Toy! Toy! - di 13.3 17h

Pachinko is a composition for a toy piano and computer, performed by a single player. It refers to a pinball game widely played in Japan where small metal balls cascade down through a dense forest of pins, creating an avalanche of noise. Due to the nature of such gambling devices, chance plays an important role. However, in this very piece, one can never lose but only win. And this applies to the audience as well.

Pachinko is written for a small Michelsonne one-octave toy piano with only 13 keys. It is accompanied by a laptop computer (MacBook Pro) which runs a special software written in MaxMSP. This programme plays a toy piano part on its own, created inside the computer in real time. The performer can start and stop the generating process by pressing the space bar on the computer keyboard. For each musical phrase (which can be started or stopped at any time by the performer), a certain selection of notes is used. It is displayed in musical notation in the main window of the program.

The player reacts on the computer's playing by using only the pitch material that is shown on the screen, improvising a dialogue with the computer. At any time s/he can stop the computer, or start another process. The phrases of the computer and the performer

can overlap or interrupt each other, creating a lively and energetic dialogue between the toy piano (played by a musician) and the computer (controlled by the musician as well).

At certain times – which are left to the discretion of the player – a so-called "Joker" can be called. This is achieved by pressing the return key on the computer keyboard, resulting in a furious cascade of notes. Press the return key again to stop this sound. Note that the joker must be used with care. Don't overuse it!

To begin the piece, press the space bar and let the computer play first. Then you can start playing the toy piano, using only the notes that are displayed on the computer screen. Use them in any order, creating a variety of musical gestures with them. Always listen what the computer is playing, and react to it in a creative way. Frequently start and stop the computer phrases, allowing different lengths. Don't forget to make pauses as well. At the right moment, press the return key for starting the Joker. Don't forget to stop it after a few seconds by pressing the same key again. When you want the piece to finish, just press the backspace key of your computer keyboard in order to create a soft fade out of the electronics.

Karlheinz Essl