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The Amadinda Percussion Group returns for Independence, one of the three major pieces on 'Mystery System'. The group plays a wide range of instruments here to make it a rich, colourful piece that rewards repeated listening [listen -- track 3, 15:06-16:50].

I found the integration of pitched and non-pitched instruments oddly thought-provoking. Most of us, I'm sure, understand pitch material in one way and non-pitched material in another. Applying the same compositional processes to both, as Ligeti does here, seems to subtly conflict with that difference in cognition. Do percussionists understand music differently from the rest of us?

New York to Neptune is a tiny jazzy interlude which may well have served Ligeti as a study for the integration of live musicians and electronics in the following item. Here it serves mainly to separate the two big percussive pieces.

Delta Space (2002) is a tour de force for both composer and performer. Ligeti sets up the tightest possible integration of player and electronics -- they share one piano -- and exploits it with remarkable ingenuity for stunning musical results.

The piano is equipped with a disklavier, a computer system which can 'play' the piano normally or with quite unhuman abilities. The pianist, then, has to deal with an invisible partner -- or adversary -- which can take over her instrument in all sorts of odd ways while she is playing. For instance, it can silently apply the sustaining pedal to any given set of keys, turning a simple scalar passage into an ornamented arpeggiated chord. And sampled sounds are there in the mix as well, African instruments prominent amongst them.

Kathleen Supové is obviously comfortable with piano/electronics interactions (she has dedicated another whole disc to them) but playing this duet with the ghost in the machine is still juggling on a tight-rope, blindfold. She sounds as though she thrives on the challenge.

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Copyright © 1 June 2005 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


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