Performer’s Guide to “Jeux Deux”

A one-stop-shop for performing organizations interested in Tod Machover’s “Jeux Deux”, a work for orchestra, Yamaha Disklavier and electronics.

Machover utilizes his “hyperpiano” concept, in which the grand piano, played with consummate sensitivity by Paul Chertock, interacts with the Yamaha Disklavier in a way that augments, transforms and splinters the music, sometimes releasing a volley of pre-composed notes in greater profusion and rapidity than a live pianist could possibly play them. The result is an absolutely stunning experience for performer and listener alike.
– Phil Muse

In Jeux Deux, a wild and disarming tribute to Debussy’s last orchestral work, the soloist plays a Hyperpiano – a Yamaha Disklavier Grand – which outdoes Liszt, thanks to software that takes the solo part beyond the realm of mortal possibility. – Gramophone

LISTEN – Excerpts

To request a CD or MP3 of full tracks please email junekino@media.mit.edu for a download code. The CD is available for purchase from Bridge Records and Amazon.com.

Jeux Deux (excerpt 1)

Jeux Deux (excerpt 2)
 

Jeux Deux (excerpt 3)

Additional video of live performances, audio excepts, photos, composer’s remarks and links are available at Tod Machover’s official website.

VIDEO

The CD was partially funded through Kickstarter. The project video provides some fun background information, excerpts and documentary footage of the world premiere performance of ‘Jeux Deux”.

THE SCORE: ‘Jeux Deux’ (Boosey & Hawkes 2005)

PERFORMING ENSEMBLE REQUIREMENTS

“Jeux Deux” is scored for the standard orchestra formation, with a corps of three percussionists playing about two dozen instruments; the solo pianist plays the Yamaha Disklavier Grand. Both piano and orchestra are purely acoustic with no amplification or electronic enhancement. Instead, the Disklavier records and plays back with great musical and performance accuracy. With the addition of Hyperinstrument software, the Disklavier also augments, transforms and splinters music played by the soloist. This HyperPiano thus becomes a formidable foil, at times weaving intricate contrapuntal embellishments, at others creating cascading textures.

Additional equipment to be provided by the performing organization:

  1.  Yamaha Disklavier Piano
  2. High-quality Stereo PA system
  3. House mixing console
  4. Adequate microphon(s) for piano amplification
  5. Cables as needed
  6. Adequate power

REVIEWS OF ‘Jeux Deux’ ARE CONTAINED IN REVIEWS OF THE CD “…BUT NOT SIMPLER…”

NOTES (From Booklet notes by Richard Dyer, former chief music critic for the Boston Globe.)

The title pays playful homage to Debussy’s final orchestral score, Jeux, a “dance poem,’’ in Debussy’s words.  As it was initially staged, Jeux was a ballet about two young women and a man whose game of tennis has been interrupted – they are searching for a tennis ball that has gone missing, and the search turns into a different set of games, romantic or psycho-sexual, and these new games have ambiguous rules. At the end, an unseen hand bounces a tennis ball onto the stage.  Jeux is a work of great harmonic, metrical, and psychological complexity, and Machover thinks of it as a “spiritual antecedent’’ of his own piece.

In this instance, the two games are first the traditional one between the soloist and the orchestra, and second, the interplay between the human soloist and the “hyperpiano,” the Yamaha Disklavier Grand, which “augments, transforms, and splinters” the music that the soloist plays live, sometimes operating at speeds and a level of dexterity well beyond the possibilities of even an exceptionally well-trained pair of human hands – a mere 10 fingers could not possibly encompass this music. The resulting sonority transcends anything we might expect from an acoustic instrument.

The score indicates that a live note from the piano sometimes “triggers’’ a volley of pre-composed notes which the Disklavier plays; sometimes the computer processes the live piano notes, transforms them, and sends them back to the Disklavier, which plays them, physically but phantomly moving keys and pedals; and sometimes the live piano notes and articulations shape and modify music that is generated by the computer, and then played back on the Disklavier.  The effect is brilliant and explosive, an aural 4th of July fireworks display.

There are three principal sections in the piece which is played without interruption, and three cadenzas for hyperpiano punctuate the work.

The first section, marked “swift and stealthy,’’ begins like Ravel’s La Valse with a pulsing rhythm in the bass rather than a melody or even an introduction. The composer describes the first movement as “like a rapidly flowing mountain stream, quiet and slightly mysterious.’’  True enough, although the rhythms sound 20th century and urban.  At the climax the Disklavier goes crazy – memories of all of those famous and delicate water pieces by Liszt and Ravel are obliterated by a torrential cascade…

The second section, “Freely lyrical,’’ sounds vaguely Baroque in the cut of the melodic ideas and the ornamentation of those ideas, if not in the harmony; birds seem to listen and supply their own ornaments.

The transition to the finale is interesting – a “solid, steady’’ section is anchored by a series of 24 successive low Cs from the piano and the bottom instruments of the orchestra; these gradually grow faster and accumulate thunderous volume and dense texture, melding full orchestra and fully extended hyperpiano. An aleatoric section – in which zigzagging cascades of flowing piano notes are literally dialed to the Disklavier from a mini-keyboard

played by the soloist – gives way to the bumptious thoroughly C-major melody of the finale which bubbles along cheerfully over and through many rhythmic displacements. There is a last quick game of hide-and-go-seek between the Disklavier and the orchestra before the music slips over the horizon – you don’t hear pitches any more, only rhythm and a final pianissimo thump, like the mysterious bounce of a tennis ball tossed by an unseen hand.

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