Thomas, Philip (2009) Michael Pisaro's 'pi (1-2954)'. In: Michael Pisaro 'pi (1-2954)', 23-27 November 2009, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Five performances on consecutive days of American experimental composer Michael Pisaro's 'pi (1-2954)' for solo piano.

Composer's note:
pi (1–2954) is a collection of fifteen solos for piano using a simple formula for playing the decimal places of .

The formula takes a fundamental five-second unit and divides it into ten equal parts (written as eighth notes). Starting at the first position (beat one) the pianist plays a tone (with pedal depressed) the number of times indicated by the decimal place (i.e., if 1, then just once, if 9 then nine times in a row, for 0 then not at all during that unit). The duration of the gap between places thus also varies, but there will always be a gap of at least one place or eighth-note beat. The fifteen solos encompass first 2954 decimal places (not including the number 3 before the decimal). While this is not a particularly efficient method for getting through pi (it would take about 83,333 hours to play “only” the first million places), I have found that it is a good way to investigate the subtle shadings of piano timbre created by minutely different patterns of repetition–and to allow the patterns themselves to (perhaps just barely) be heard as music.

The fifteen pieces are organized according to three different vectors, as pi itself is often understood not just as a list of places, but one that has certain qualities and intensities.

One vector is a sequential passage through the 2954 places (starting of course with .141592…).

Another vector is the subdivision of the space of the piano. A different tone is assigned to each of the 15 pieces (i.e., one tone per piece), Through the series these tones move irregularly outward from the central tone of the piano (e4 above middle c), with some preference given to tones in the central range of the piano (a register which seems to combine resonance and clarity).

Finally, the pieces each have different duration: the shortest being 5’00” and the longest 54’10” (this one is actually the piece that begins the series of decimal places)–and as with the pitch series, the relationship between the decimal places performed and the duration is non-linear.

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