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Donnacha Dennehy

Publisher: G. Schirmer

pAt (2001)
G Schirmer Inc
Solo Keyboard(s)
Year Composed
11 Minutes
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Programme Note

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Composer Note:
It is difficult to know how much one should divulge of one's working methods and compositional games. How much will serve to elucidate? How much will incriminate me?! Despite the fact that this piece wears many aspects of its construction on its sleeve, I believe that one can perceive it fine without knowing any of the musico-intellectual conceits underlying its construction. My explanations may only serve to obscure and prevent people unfamiliar with the terms from appreciating the music, so I'd rather not! For me music is more felt than thought about anyway!

Nevertheless, for those that are incurably and unapologetically curious, I will give one story of my thinking behind the piece. Techno, and more particularly, the talk that goes with it, gave me the initial idea of playing with the notion of BPM (Beats per minute). In techno, tracks are characterised by their BPMs. The DJs need this information so that they can mix appropriately. When we exercise, our hearts should not go beyond 140BPM apparently! Of course any of these BPMs could also be translated into other measurements. It is easy to work out that if there are 140 beats per minute that means that there are 2.333 beats/events per second! Just divide by 60! If there are more than 20 events per second one does not hear the separate events anymore, instead one hears a note. The frequency of this note is determined by how many events there are per second. The more events, the higher it is, the less, the lower. An orchestra tunes to A 440. This means that the A is achieved by there being 440 vibrations per second basically. If there were 880 one would hear an A an octave above.440 cycles per second (hz) = 26,400 BPM! Awfully fast!!

Techno occasionally makes use of BPMs that speed up to produce notes. An early piece by Stockhausen called Kontakte also briefly played with the phenomenon. Neither, however, is suffused with the idea.Very little else has dealt with this amazing phenomenon in music. Nearly everything that happens in pAt is influenced by some relation to the time-pitch phenomenon. Yes! I admit it : I am a formalist! But I'm a very emotional one, and I believe that art must try to add something to or make us focus on aspects of the way we perceive the world! I'm also streetwise and this sense filters all my recondite concerns. For those of you with a taste for intrigue, and thinking time on your hands, I feel that I should point out that the use of the quote from Beckett is not as glib as it may appear. David Bendall, my wife's grandfather, is the man behind the voice on the tape. I do not think he knew what he was letting himself in for.

— Donnacha Dennehy

  • Soloist(s)
    Darragh Morgan, violin
    NMC Records:
  • Soloist(s)
    Joanna MacGregor
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