Program Notes

Snapshot 2013-09-17 16-30-48Most of the modified piano music on this recording employs digital signal processing effects that are used as timbral enhancement to the music. For these pieces, the composer created and selected each of the effects.

The piano part on the most recent pieces are played on a MIDI keyboard by the composer then played back on a Steinway D digital piano. The earlier computer-controlled pieces are played back on a Bosendorfer digital piano.

The music for computer-controlled digital piano was generated by a computer from a set of microprograms that contain instructions for realizing the music. The instructions combine the simplest elements of musical texture (pitch, dynamics, duration, speed, rhythm, articulation, etc.) with basic structural elements (continuity, repetition, variation, and chord structures which are derived from the melodic flow of the music). Some random variability is introduced in the program to provide structural coherence. The program then outputs the musical information in the form of MIDI data that controls the digital piano.

The Moby Dick in All of Us

for Digitally Modified Piano and Electronic Sounds (2009)

John Holland, Digital Piano


1. Ishmael
2. Queequeg
3. Captain Ahab
4. The Pequod
5. Starbuck
6. Stubb
7. Flask
8. Tashtego
9. Pip
10. Moby Dick

The piano score is divided into 10 movements, each containing a series of integers, and the name of one of the characters in Hermann Melville’s epic novel Moby Dick. The integers used in the score were drawn from the names of the 10 different characters, ranging from Ishmael and Queequeg to Captain Ahab and Moby Dick.

The integers in each movement are determined by the letters in the alphabet that spell-out the name of each character. The letter ‘a’ corresponds to the number 1, the letter ‘b’ to 2, and so on. After making a recording of the piano music from the score, I digitally modified the recorded piano music, then added the electronic sounds.

Music for Modified Digital Piano  Set 1 Nos. 1 – 4  (1998)  7:45

(Computer-controlled Digital Piano)


Set No. 1
for Modified Digital Piano is intended to suggest a variety of engaging environments where one may expect to make interesting observations.

Concerto for Digital Piano, Percussion, and Electronic Sounds  (2011)  10:55

John Holland, Digital Piano


This music is an example of ‘fixed media’ which is intended to be listened to on an audio speaker system rather than in a ‘live’ concert venue. The Concerto was recorded on a digital piano from an ‘integer’ score, then layered with digital percussion and electronic sounds.

Exotic Plants

for Modified Digital Piano  (1995)  15:55

(Computer-controlled Digital Piano)


1. Air Plant
2. Pitcher Plant
3. Bromeliad
4. Elephant Plant
5. Bird of Paradise

Exotic Plants (1995) is a musical depiction of some of the most extraordinary flora observed on Earth. Occasionally melodic ‘themes’ are incorporated within the music. In some pieces, the themes are generated by the computer with a theme generator program, while in others they are freely composed. The themes are input into a data base where they are selected and modified automatically when the program is active.

Six Quarks

  for Digital Piano and Computer-generated Sounds  (1996)  11:46

(Computer-controlled Digital Piano)


1. Up
2. Down
3. Strange
4. Charmed
5. Bottom
6. Top

Music for The Six Quarks for Digital Piano and Computer-generated Sounds is inspired by the fundamental elementary particles of matter which form the nucleus of an atom. These particles oscillate in resonance with one another, forming coherent vibrational patterns. There are six different kinds or ‘flavors’ of quarks, based on their position within the nucleus. Quarks were given their name by particle physicist Murray Gell-Mann in the 1960’s, borrowed from a passage in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.

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