Krems an der Donau, a small town outside of Vienna, found itself to be the unlikely home of one of the oldest fully functional modular synthesizers: two cabinets of oscillators, filters, and envelopes built by Don Buchla in 1967 for the composer Ernst Krenek. Sitting down to work with this instrument, it was impossible to ignore its history. We were first introduced to a piece of Krenek’s for two pianos and the very same synthesizer called “Tape and Double”, which pushed us toward using the piano and the Buchla together as the instrumentation for this project.
Buchla never refrain from stating how dictatorial the keyboard is: on black and white keys you can only write music that is black and white. We hoped that looking at the piano through the synth, we could write in color.
We collected five vignettes showcasing different characters of the machine, each of them aiming to be a small world which is fleetingly entered and then left. These worlds were the basis for a near note-for-note unison part composed out for the piano, which also makes use of extended techniques like preparations, string plucking, and harmonics to play on the border between acoustic and electronic sounds.
With this unison effect, the pieces focus on a hypothetical common secret language shared by the Buchla and the piano, an idioglossia, much like those shared by two twins.
More information at: passepartoutduo.com/epigrams
released February 26, 2021
Written and recorded by Passepartout Duo
Nicoletta Favari & Christopher Salvito
In cooperation with AIR Niederösterreich and the Ernst Krenek Institut in Krems, Austria.
Artwork by Casey Wang (王帅)