Shadows (2015 Ircam Artistic Research Residency)

Shadows is a solo piano piece that incorporates dynamically-generated music notation, display, and score following. It was created in close collaboration with researchers at IRCAM and GRAME as part of a 2015 IRCAM artistic research residency.

In Shadows, the pianist reads an open-form score from a laptop screen, choosing his own path through a series of connected musical fragments. At the same time, the laptop listens to the pianist, tracks the decisions he makes about what to play, and constantly updates the score in response. This dialogue between pianist and computer, actuated through a dynamic score, serves to amplify the expressive decisions made by the pianist, to subtly push him in new musical directions, and to create large-scale structural arcs in the music.

Shadows consists of four movements, each of which explores the pianist-computer-score interaction from a different perspective:

I. Traces. The score consists of twelve chords followed by their echoes. The speed at which the pianist moves from chord to chord affects how much of the score is displayed and how much is hidden.

II. Chorale. The pianist plays from a selection of five chords and three embellishment notes. Each time a chord or note is played, its harmonic density and complexity is changed.

III. Perpetual Quiet. The pianist builds arpeggios from a constantly changing set of pitches.

IV. Perpetual Melody. The pianist chooses from a combination of rhythmically driven, short melodic motives and chords. Connections between fragments are added and removed based on the amount each fragment is being played.

I wrote Shadows for pianist Melvin Chen, during an artistic research residency at IRCAM. I worked closely with researchers on the Music Representations Team to extend the functionality of Antescofo to better support dynamically generated scores and open-form scores. I also worked with researchers at GRAME to utilize InScore for the dynamic display of notation to the pianist, working to add features and address limitations of that platform as needed for this performance context.

More information about the project, including a score and a video of a performance, are available at

Many thanks to Arshia Cont and Jean-Louis Giavitto from IRCAM and to Dominique Fober from GRAME for collaborating with me to extend their Antescofo and INScore software, respectively, for use in this piece.