Piece of 4

1981 45 minutes
4 actors and tape
 Christchurch, New Zealand
 Wellington, New Zealand
 Zurich, Switzerland
Performance of ‘Piece of 4’
Performance of ‘Piece of 4’ in the Robert McDougal Art Gallery, Christchurch, July, 1982

Piece of 4 was composed in Europe Sep/Oct 1980 for the Bourges Experimental Music Festival June 1982. It was, however, not used because it would have demanded far more rehearsal time than was available, instead I arranged Krähenalles for clarinet and the first performance of “Piece of 4” was in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The work combines my thoughts on music from found objects and on chance music, while also exploring the theme of “4”. Thus there are 4 players, each with 4 found instruments, stationed at the corners of a square. A microphone leads the sounds each player makes to a mixer and synthesizer, which modifies the sound and delivers it to a tape recorder. The taped sound then travels round the edge of the square on an enormous tape-loop. Each player is responsible for switching on and off a tape recorder in his corner which plays back the sounds on the loop. Here is a diagram of the layout from the score:

Piece of Four layout
Big numbers 1–4 are the players. ‘I’ with subscript numbers are the instruments. M = microphone and T.R. = tape recorder

The piece is controlled by 4 independent chance systems: Rods (used as dice). 2 sets of cards, and the players themselves. Each player has 4 square rods which tell him: Which instrument to play, how to set the controls of his tape recorder, which other player to “adjust” to, and what sort of “adjustment” to make.

Piece of 4 rods
Piece of 4 rods

He or she also has 16 (4x4) Music Example Cards which tell him/her how to start playing in each section of the piece.The piece has 16 sections whose durations are dictated by square Duration Cards in the centre of the large square. The most important musical idea is that of “adjustment”. After a player has started playing at the beginning of a section, he is required to alter his manner of playing to imitate one or more of 4 parameters: Pitch, duration, loudness, and the physical movement of the other players. Adjustment patterns among the players can be very complex. For example, one player can be adjusting to a second player, and a third player can also he adjusting to the second player, who is adjusting to the fourth player, who in turn is adjusting to a tape sound. This is one of 250 different adjustment patterns.

For my 70th birthday Gerald Bennett and his staff arranged for a performance of this piece at the Zurich Conservatory.