Monday, July 31, 2006

Keyboard Music?

The number of young musicians for whom a portable electronic keyboard is the primary instrument must be large. In places like Germany, where housing is crowded and playing out loud after nine or so in the evening is often restricted, being able to play an instument through headphones is nice option (most pianos for the home market here also come with a built-in felt damper mechanism, either hand- or pedal-controlled, the Moderator).

Given the ubiquity of these instruments, it's surprising that a larger repertoire of new music written specifically for solo electronic keyboards has not developed. In the sixties and early seventies, there was actually quite a repertoire for Farfisa organs as ensemble instruments (Reich, Glass, and others) and cheap amplified reed organs had some currency in the British Experimental scene.

So how about it -- who has pieces for solo electronic keyboards, with ranges of 49 to 61 keys, and perhaps a dozen contrasting timbres, with key-velocity and sustain pedal optional?

1 comment:

Trevor Murphy said...

That's an interesting point, particularly since %90 of my own keyboard activity is on a four-octave USB controller gizmo. Unless the piece I'm playing is from the spinet/harpsichord era, I usually have to have to fudge the registration as I go. As for why there isn't a body of new work for electronic keyboards, I'd say that composers working within the tradition of notational music have never really gotten comfortable with synthesizers- the technology changes too fast, the quality of patches varies widely according to the instrument, dynamics may be impossible on cheaper models, etc etc. I think part of the reason, too, is reaction to the overuse of synths in pop music in the '80s- it's hard to compose on a keyboard synth if you're worrying the whole time about not sounding like the Pet Shop Boys.