Universal Edition - David Fennessy – PPP

David Fennessy

David Fennessy

Year of composition: 2004
Scored for: for ensemble and electronics
Composer: David Fennessy
Instrumentation details:
electric guitar (+autoharp)
bass clarinet in Bb(3)
Duration: 50′
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Audio Excerpt


World Première

Location: Glasgow / Great Britain
Date: 05.12.2004
Remarks: venue: Cottier Theatre

Work Introduction

PPP is a piece about pianos (or, the pianos in my life).
It’s a piece about tuning (or rather, being out of tune).
It’s about memory (or, more accurately, remembering).
It’s about personal connections with instruments (and the people who play them); their history (and mine) and their imperfections.

I had been thinking about a piece for a while where the structure was governed by the amount of time it took a piano tuner to tune a piano. It had something to do with a transition from a state of imperfection towards one of perfection. I suppose I had romantic notions of the solitary tuner – alone with his piano – single notes repeating, reverberating.

Pianos have always intrigued and fascinated me partly because I could never play them (and still can’t) and also because they all seem to have individual personalities. My late grandmother’s piano was a source of huge enjoyment as a kid even though it was horrendously out of tune (probably because of it). It used to frustrate me terribly that some notes didn’t sound but you quickly learn not to hit those keys; they become out of bounds.

I have found that my whole training as a ‘classical’ musician has been geared towards creating beautiful, clean sounds. It’s taken me quite some time to realise that there is as much beauty in the broken keys as there is in the working ones.

PPP falls into seven sections as follows:

I. This is a recording I made of an old, bashed up piano that I found on the street. It had evidently been thrown out. The recording was made at about 4am when it was quiet.

II. Ensemble featuring sounds of a piano being tuned.

III. The Piano Tuner’s Lecture. Solo CD. When I went to record the piano being tuned the tuner decided to give an impromptu lecture on the cycle of fifths.

IV. Ensemble with an extended solo for detuned guitar with electronic delay.

V. Small Brown Spots. Guitar and cello duet.

VI. The outside piano again; this time recorded during the day and introducing Sparky*.

VII. Piano, Piano, Piano. Ensemble with extended piano solo. An autoharp (small, many stringed instrument played on the lap) is tuned with comments from Sparky.

David Fennessy


*Sparky and the Magic Piano was a popular children’s album recorded in the 1950’s telling the story of a child whose piano comes to life.

David Fennessy on PPP

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