j  o  s  e  p  h  b  r  a  n  c  i  f  o  r  t  e

screenshot from 90 structures (branciforte, 2017), a semi-generative piece for piano, 2 violins, 2 cellos, vibraphone, and bass clarinet.


Between traditionally scored works for acoustic instruments and music classified as “electronic” lies a range of hybrid approaches that composers are only beginning to explore. By integrating algorithmic processes, generativity, indeterminacy and related techniques from electronic music, such technologically “augmented” approaches to composition can lead to new ways of addressing musical questions, new approaches to notation, and perhaps entirely new compositional forms. The goal of this project is to explore some of these possibilities by borrowing experimental techniques from electronic music and applying them to new works for acoustic ensembles. This workshop performance will showcase works-in-progress by two composers interested in this approach, Joseph Branciforte and Kenneth Kirschner.

We are fortunate to have the participation of a stellar ensemble of musicians including Christopher Otto and Kevin McFarland (JACK Quartet), Ken Thomson (Bang on a Can), Mariel Roberts (Mivos Quartet), Joe Bergen (Mantra Percussion), Jade Conlee, and Miranda Cuckson.

Branciforte’s 90 STRUCTURES is the first in a series of semi-indeterminate chamber pieces that employ networked computers to generate, orchestrate, and notate an algorithmic composition completely in real-time. The piece is a conscious attempt at allowing flexibility in the horizontal (temporal, formal, and rhythmic) domain, while maintaining absolute vertical (harmonic) control. Selecting from a database of 90 pre-composed harmonic structures, custom-designed software generates a rule-based score, intelligently transposing, voice-leading, orchestrating, and assigning rhythm and form to the basic harmonic materials. The resulting composition is displayed as traditional musical notation live via a network of laptops – essentially creating an “indeterminate score” that is new to both the audience and the musicians themselves with each performance.

Two recent works by Kirschner explore hybrid digital-acoustic composition from the opposite direction: as traditionally notated acoustic realizations of pieces originally composed electronically. Kirschner’s electroacoustic composition APRIL 20, 2015 – transcribed by Branciforte for piano and two cellos – uses overlapping non-metric spaces to create emergent rhythms that are easily realized electronically but highly challenging for instrumental performance. And Kirschner’s AUGUST 18, 2015 – arranged by Branciforte for piano, vibraphone, two violins, two cellos and bass clarinet – is based on electronic recombination of simple underlying patterns to form a generative digital canon that yields unexpected harmonic results.

[audio production]


joseph branciforte & kenneth kirschner

from the machine: electronic compositions for acoustic instruments






MARCH 15, 2017






KEN THOMSON, bass clarinet

JOE BERGEN, vibraphone