new versions of ‘this piece intentionally left blank’: collect them all


this piece intentionally left blank  is a short work for open instrumentation that I improvised in 2006. The score is a faithful representation of this, mistakes and all, and can be performed by any keyboard with or without any number of instruments. My original version is for electronic keyboard and was realized through Reason and sounds like this. Since that time, it has been performed live in concert by the Diverse Instrument Ensemble as arranged for several acoustic instruments by Paul Bailey. In response to the call for scores for the recent Sequenza 21 concert in NYC, I arranged the piece for piano, violin, viola and flute owing to the instrumentation of the ensemble performing in the concert. While it wasn’t selected for the concert, I’m still holding out hope that the Lost Dog Ensemble will eventually perform it. In any case, there’s a decent MP3 of this version here, and it brings out nuances of the work that perhaps aren’t as obvious in the previous two versions. Also in the interim, Paul took it upon himself to play with his Kaossilator and started to do his own realization of the score. I heard his initial work on this, which got about halfway or so into the score, and really love it. What’s unique about Paul’s realization is that he also improvises on the score itself. It’s clearly this piece intentionally left blank, but a variation on it, if you will. The bummer is that Paul’s PC crapped out and his work on this version might be lost forever. I have the MP3 of the partial work, which is definitely better than nothing, but I’d love to see it finished.

Why all this discussion about this piece intentionally left blank? Because it’s multiplying, and I’m going to start to lose count of all the versions if I don’t document it somewhere. Last week, a stranger e-mailed me to apprise me that he was going to learn to play the work on the piano. I was delighted to hear this, and even more so when he informed me that he’s just learning it on his own because he is a math teacher who just happens to have been looking for some minimalist piano music to learn. While he won’t be performing it publicly, I’m hoping he might be able to make an audio file I could hear, since I’d love to see what he is doing with it. 

My mentioning this on twitter lead to the composer extraordinaire JC Combs taking it on himself to tweak my crappy MIDI file (Finale and Reason both have issues exporting MIDI for some reason, Finale being particularly bad) while he generated his own version for piano. In the meantime, I took James’ edited MIDI file (which contains some accents but is otherwise pretty consistent with the score) and scored it in Reason for electronic piano, vibraphone and electric bass. You can hear the results here. James subsequently developed his own version for piano, and has just been blogging about his work with the MIDI file on his blog. To make it the story even more complicated, Jeff Harrington got into the act (see what twitter does?) and applied a randomization program to the MIDI velocities, although both of us think the results are not that dissimilar to what JC did. Whatever. Jeff made two different realizations for piano that are themselves quite nice.

Anyway, the beauty of an open instrumentation work like this piece intentionally left blank is that the possibilities are endless. It is now becoming one of my more popular works (not that anything I write will ever be “popular;“ but in the niche that new music has become, it’s more popular than some of my other crap, I suppose). I’ve posted several versions on my music page, and I’m sure there will be more to come. What’s nice is that people seem to really take to the piece. And it’s very interesting to see how the small community of new music composers that we are is taking the score and/or MIDI file and doing different things with it, be it live performances or just using some MIDI-based sounds to make it into something a bit new. It’s an organic piece, and that’s a very cool thing. I wrote it for my homie Kel Smith, and I’m glad the work is getting more attention, not less, as it ages.