Christopher Dobrian

Artful Devices

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The artful devices alluded to in the title of Christopher Dobrian's CD are computers and the Yamaha Disklavier, a computer-controlled piano. Being able to control the instrument via a machine allows him to compose music that used to be impossible to play by a human pianist. "Entropy" goes in that direction, as cascading and quickly repeated notes accumulate to create dense textures. Basic gestures and parameters are determined by the composer; the computer calculates the notes to achieve the states of entropy (randomness) and negentropy (order) wanted. Algorithms also constitute the substance of "Line/Phase Minutiae." A real player is required for the two versions of "Unnatural Selection." In the first incarnation, Dobrian plays notes on a guitar with its volume turned down, triggering responses from the computer. The second version features pianist Daniel Koppelman interacting with his instant accompaniment. He also appears in "There's Just One Thing You Need to Know" (titled after a quote from Morton Feldman) where left hand, right hand, and computer enter a complex contrapuntal dance. Dobrian's music does not always transcend its technical aspects, but this brilliant last piece (16 minutes in duration) is well worth a listen.

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