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Keith Kirchoff | The Electro-Acoustic Piano, Vol. 2

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The Electro-Acoustic Piano, Vol. 2

by Keith Kirchoff

Keith Kirchoff – a specialist in works that combine the piano with computer driven electronics – presents a second volume of new electroacoustic piano works, showcasing some of the most exciting composers of electroacoustic music.
Genre: Avant Garde: Electro-Acoustic
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Studies in Momentum: I. Ground State (2014)
2:33 $0.99
2. Studies in Momentum: II. Projectile Motion (2014)
1:36 $0.99
3. Studies in Momentum: III. Escape Velocity (2014)
1:35 $0.99
4. Studies in Momentum: IV. Planck's Waltz (2014)
1:46 $0.99
5. Studies in Momentum: V. Approaching Entropy (2014)
3:16 $0.99
6. Every Problem Is a Nail (2014)
8:41 $0.99
7. Desire with Digressions (2012)
16:18 $0.99
8. The BFG (2010)
6:55 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
This album has been a labor of love and multiple years in the making, and it varies significantly from the first volume in this series. The goal of the The Electroacoustic Piano: Volume One was to show the massive diversity in electroacoustic music. Each piece was wildly different both aesthetically and technically: there was music for live electronics, music for wiimotes, music for fixed media. Pieces influenced by popular music, by Liszt etudes, and by new complexity. Pieces with improvisation and pieces that were meticulously notated. Really the only things any of these pieces shared in common were the fact that they each used a piano and a computer.

The second volume is quite different. While the included pieces are still diverse, I argue that more binds them together than draws them apart. For me, these pieces all focus on the uniqueness of the piano as an acoustic instrument, focussing and highlighting the instrument’s natural strengths.

Each of these works are “piano pieces” in the truest sense of the word. They are gratifying to play both physically and artistically, and all draw upon the innate virtuosity of the instrument. Peter Van Zandt Lane’s “Studies in Momentum” is a set of classic etudes, with each of the five movements focussing on a specific technique (both physical and technological). Butch Rovan’s “Desire with Digressions” is reminiscent of a piano fantasy, not unlike a Liszt symphonic poem: a musical retelling of Brian Evanson’s book of the same name, it is lyrical, poignant, and ferociously difficult as the pianist dazzles with arpeggios up and down the keyboard. Scott Miller’s “Every Problem is a Nail” is a subtle piece that explores the overtone series, and the almost ghostly effect of holding down notes silently while intoning a single note over and over.

As electronic music evolves, and new equipment, gear, software, and machines are released daily, it is far too easy to get caught up in the technology being used, with the role of the acoustic instrument often coming as little more than an afterthought. There is a risk in this, for down the rabbit hole of technology one can lose track of the music, the expression, the humanity. I have loved working with these pieces, pieces I regularly return to, pieces that I hold up as examples of great piano literature (not just great electroacoustic literature) of the 21st century, pieces that I hope will be passed down from generation to generation. And I return because they all are a beautiful balance of mental and physical, old and new, human and machine. Pieces that care about the piano, and treat the pianist as a true soloist. It is my hope that you find the same joy in listening to them, as I do in playing them.

As a bonus track, I’ve also included Christopher Biggs’ “The BFG” for toy piano and live electronics. Back in 2009, I was aspiring towards a toy piano/electronics album, but despite a few great pieces, the project sadly never really saw fruition. Chris wrote “The BFG” for that project, and I’ve been sitting on this recording for almost ten years. With the original project now defunct, I saw no better opportunity to share this charming work than at the end of this album.

(program notes written by the composers)

Peter Van Zandt Lane:
“Studies in Momentum” for piano and live electronics (2014) [world premier recording]
I. ground state
II. projectile motion
III. escape velocity
IV. Planck’s waltz
V. approaching entropy

“Studies in Momentum” is a cycle of five miniatures for piano and live electronics, composed for pianist Keith Kirchoff. The piece is modeled as four études and a fantasy, with the focus of each étude being a single kind of signal process: harmonization, downsampling, ring modulation, and delay (respectively). The closing fantasy, approaching entropy, combines the four while also including a kind of hyper-rhythmic musique concréte element that I often employ in my electroacoustic works.

The titles (which were each chosen before any of the music was composed) – ground state, projectile motion, escape velocity, Planck's waltz, and approaching entropy – give each étude's narrative a particular challenge, or sense of tension between where the music is going and how it gets there. These titles – borrowed concepts of quantum mechanics and kinematics – are areas in which I have absolutely no authority (which is probably what makes them inspiring to me). But like many of my fellow composers, I find layperson-geared explanations of physics highly evocative, sparking exciting ideas about relationships between musical narrative and motion in the physical world.

Scott Miller:
“Every Problem is a Nail” for piano and fixed-media electronics (2014) [world premier recording]

“Every Problem is a Nail” was commissioned by and written for pianist Keith Kirchoff, supported in part by the American Composers Forum through the 2013 McKnight Composer Fellowship Program. When I was a student, more than a few professors attempted to teach me about the overtone series – and by extension, timbre – by holding a key down on a piano, and thwacking another key one or two octaves lower, saying "Hear that? Do you hear that?" I never heard it. But I do now, and so much more, with the aid of microphones and amplification. Frequencies between the keys and timbres often masked or ignored are revealed with these tools, further illuminated with the addition of digital signal processing. 

Butch Rovan:
“Desire with Digressions” for piano and interactive computer music (2012)
after a short story by Brian Evenson

(This release is an extended and remixed version of what was originally released on "Music from SEAMUS volume 23")

“Desire with Digressions” is a musical reading of a short story of the same name by Brian Evenson. The story explores the dissociative state of a single character, caught in the midst of flight from a former life. Pulled into an uncertain orbit, the character meets up with, and circles back to, various permutations of himself. The resulting variation form, with its noir-ish sensibility, becomes the basis for this musical reading, where piano and electronics suggest the affect of the surreal psychological journey. The piece is dedicated to Bruce Brubaker. Special thanks to Jon Nelson and Katherine Bergeron.

Christopher Biggs:
“The BFG” for toy piano and computer (2010) [world premier recording]

When I first watched Keith Kirchoff play a toy piano, two things immediately struck me: First, he appeared to be a giant, no matter how hard I tried to tell my mind that the piano was smaller than normal and Keith was the same size, my mind would not make the adjustment. Secondly, I sensed a contrast between the repertoire I have seen Keith play on a grand piano, along with the command and (often violent) dynamicism with which he plays, and the medium of the toy piano. These two impressions reminded me of the children’s book “The Big Friendly Giant” by Roald Dahl, both in that Keith appeared to be a giant and that, rather than being violent, the giant was childish and fatherly.

Also, this book reminds me of my first impressions of Keith. Keith’s musical talent, knowledge, professionalism, and dedication are profound (giant) and this can be a bit intimidating. But immediately after getting to know him, his underlying personality is playful and friendly. This reminded me of the main character’s initial interactions with the giant in the book.
I did not try to represent specific aspects of the book (I reread it and my hazy memories of it were much more interesting to me); rather, I attempted to represent my impressions of the book, of Keith’s playing, and of Keith as a person. “The BFG” was written in 2010 for, and is dedicated to, pianist Keith Kirchoff.


PETER VAN ZANDT LANE (b. 1985) is an American composer of instrumental and electroacoustic music. His his music has been hailed was a New York Times Critic's Pick, praised as "refreshingly relevant." (Te New York Times). Peter has received fellowships from Composers Now, Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and has received commissions from the Barlow Endowment, Sydney Conservatorium Wind Symphony, Emory Wind Ensemble, the Wellesley Composers Conference, and Dinosaur Annex, among others. His music has been played by top-tier ensembles such as the Cleveland Orchestra, International Contemporary Ensemble, the New York Virtuoso Singers, and the Lydian String Quartet. Peter holds degrees from Brandeis University and the University of Miami, and is currently Assistant Professor of Composition and Director of the Dancz Center for New Music at the University of Georgia. (petervanzandtlane.com)

SCOTT L MILLER is a composer of electroacoustic, orchestral, chamber, choral and multimedia works frequently performed at venues and in exhibitions throughout North America and Europe. His music has been described as 'not for the faint-hearted listener' (Juliet Patterson, mnartists.org) and 'inspir[ing] real hope & optimism for the future of electroacoustic music.' (Simon Cummings, 5against4.com). 
Known for his interactive electroacoustic chamber music and experimental performance pieces, Miller is a Fulbright Scholar, has twice been named a McKnight Composer Fellow, and his work has been recognized by the Jerome Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Central Minnesota State Arts Board, and the MUSICA NOVA 98 International Electroacoustic Music Competition. Recordings of his music have been released on the Innova, Eroica, CRS, rarescale and SEAMUS labels. A Professor of Music St. Cloud State University, Minnesota, he holds degrees from The University of Minnesota, The University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the State University of New York at Oneonta, and has studied composition at the Czech-American Summer Music Institute and the Centre de Creation Musicale Iannis Xenakis. (scottlmiller.net)

JOSEPH BUTCH ROVAN is a composer/media artist and performer on the faculty of the Department of Music at Brown University, where he co-directs MEME (Multimedia & Electronic Music Experiments @ Brown) and the Ph.D. program in Computer Music and Multimedia. Prior to joining Brown he directed CEMI, the Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia, at the University of North Texas, and was a compositeur en recherche with the Real-Time Systems Team at the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in Paris. Rovan worked at Opcode Systems before leaving for Paris, serving as Product Manager for MAX, OMS and MIDI hardware.
Rovan's research includes new sensor hardware design and wireless microcontroller systems. His research into gestural control and interactivity has been featured in IRCAM's journal "Resonance", "Electronic Musician", the Computer Music Journal, the Japanese magazine "SoundArts," the CDROM "Trends in Gestural Control of Music" (IRCAM 2000), and in the book "Mapping Landscapes for Performance as Research: Scholarly Acts and Creative Cartographies," (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). (soundidea.org)

CHRISTOPHER BIGGS is a composer and multimedia artist residing in Kalamazoo, MI, where he is Assistant Professor of Music Composition and Technology at Western Michigan University. Biggs’ recent projects focus on integrating live instrumental performance with interactive audiovisual media. In addition to collaborating with artists in other disciplines on projects, he treats all of his works as collaborations between himself and the initial performing artist by working with the performers during the creative process and considering their specific skills and preferences.
Biggs’ music has been presented across the United States and Europe, as well as in Latin America and Asia. His music is regularly performed on conferences and festivals, including the International Computer Music Conference, SEAMUS Conference, Visiones Sonoras, Electronic Music Midwest, Electroacoustic Barn Dance, Root Signals, New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, Toronto International Electroacoustic Music Symposium, Bowling Green New Music Festival, and Society for Composers Inc. His music is available on Ravello Records, Irritable Hedgehog, SEAMUS CD Series, PARMA Recordings, Electroacoustico Records and Thinking outLOUD Records. Biggs has written music for Ensemble Dal Niente, the Western Brass Quintet, SPLICE Ensemble, Keith Kirchoff, Pangea Piano Project, Kari Johnson, Samuel Wells, Western Michigan Univeristy Symphonic Band, and the Truman State University Wind Ensemble.
Biggs is a co-founder and the director of SPLICE Institute, which is a weeklong intensive summer program for performers and composers to experience, explore, create, discuss, and learn techniques related to music for instruments and electronics. SPLICE takes place each June in Kalamazoo, MI. (christopherbiggsmusic.com)


KEITH KIRCHOFF is a pianist, composer, conductor, concert curator, and teacher. Described as a “virtuosic tour de force” whose playing is “energetic, precise, (and) sensitive,” he works towards promoting under- recognized composers and educating audiences of the importance of new and experimental music. An active lecturer who has presented in countries throughout the world, his recital programs focus on the integration of computers and modern electronics into a traditional classical performance space.
Kirchoff has played in many of the United States’ largest cities including New York, Boston, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Austin, as well as major cities throughout Italy, New Zealand, Australia, England, Canada, Belgium, Mexico, China, and The Netherlands. He has appeared with orchestras throughout the U.S. performing a wide range of concerti, including the Boston premier of Charles Ives’ "Emerson Concerto" and the world premier of Matthew McConnell’s "Concerto for Toy Piano," as well as more traditional concerti by Tschaikowsky and Chopin. He has also been a featured soloist in many music festivals including the Festival de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, Festival Internacional de Müsica Contemporánea, the Society for Electro- Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS), the Oregon Festival of American Music, and the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC).

Throughout his career, Kirchoff has premiered well over 100 new works and commissioned several dozen. As a strong supporter of modern music, he has worked closely with many prominent composers including Christian Wolff, Frederic Rzewski, and Louie Andriessen. As a lecturer, Kirchoff has presented seminars, lectures, and master classes on the music of the 21st century at many of the country's largest Universities. One of the nation's prominent performers of electronic music, his "Electroacoustic Piano" tour has been presented throughout three continents, and he has twice hosted an international composers competition seeking music for piano and live electronics: first with the University of Toronto in 2011, and then again with the American Composers Forum in 2015.

As a composer, Kirchoff is equally comfortable in acoustic and electronic mediums. The 2010 Rozsa Visiting Artist & Composer at the University of Tulsa, Kirchoff has been awarded residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts, New York Mills, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and Wildacres, and has been a guest composer/pianist at several universities including Brown University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Cal State, University of New Mexico, University of North Florida, and Brigham Young University. He has received commissions from numerous ensembles and soloists including Transient Canvas, Ensemble mise-en, pianists Shiau-uen Ding and Kai Schumacher, tuba player Jeffrey Meyer, organist Matthew McConnell, soprano Christine Keene, and Telling Stories Music. Often performing his own works in recital, his music, which has been described as "hyperactive," has also been performed throughout the United States, Canada, England, Turkey, Holland, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, and Germany by many respected musicians and ensembles including the California E.A.R. Unit, the Firewire Ensemble, mezzo-soprano Erica Brookhyser, violinists Carmel Raz and Stephanie Skor, cellist Alex Kelly, and pianists Albert Muhlbock and Mabel Kwan.

Kirchoff has previously served on the board of directors for the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS) as the Vice President of Programs, and is currently the Artistic Director and founder of Original Gravity: a Boston-based concert series that features the music of local composers and pairs that music with locally brewed beer. Together with Christopher Biggs, he is also the founder and Director of Performance Studies at SPLICE (Summer institute for the Performance, Listening, Interpretation, and Creation of Electroacoustic music) hosted at Western Michigan University.

The winner of the 2006 Steinway Society Piano Competition and the 2005 John Cage Award, Kirchoff was named the 2011 "Distinguished Scholar" by the Seabee Memorial Scholarship Association. He has also received composing grants from MetLife Meet the Composer and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.

Kirchoff’s primary teachers include Dean Kramer, Stephen Drury, and Paul Wirth. He received his Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Oregon in 2003 graduating summa cum laude and then received his Master of Music degree at New England Conservatory in 2005. He has also studied composition with Michael Gandolfi and Jeffrey Stolet, and conducting with Richard Hoenich. In addition to his recordings on his independent label Thinking outLOUD Records, Kirchoff has released recordings on the New World, SEAMUS, New Focus, Tantara, Parma, Ravello, and Zerx labels.

You can follow Kirchoff on Twitter @keithkirchoff and learn more at his website: keithkirchoff.com

Recorded at: Minnesota Public Radio Studios (tracks 1-6), Tufts University (track 7), First Parish UU in Brookline (track 8)
Executive Producer: Keith Kirchoff
Producer: Scott Miller (tracks 1-6), Butch Rovan (track 7), Keith Kirchoff (track 8)
Engineer: Cameron Wiley (tracks 1-6), Jim Moses (track 7), Keith Kirchoff (track 8)
Mixing: Peter Van Zandt Lane (tracks 1-5), Scott Miller (track 6), Butch Rovan (track 7), Keith Kirchoff (track 8)
Mastering: Scott Miller
Artwork: Sally Moore

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The Thinking outLOUD label was designed by Benjamin Buchanan.



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