Karlheinz Essl

Portrait KHE


for grand piano (two players) and live-electronics

Commissioned by the keyboard collective junctQín
Funded by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation

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juncTions performed by Claudia Birkholz, Rebeka Tóth and Seunghunn Yu
Hochschule für Künste, Bremen (10 Jul 2018)


juncTions was inspired by the Toronto-based keyboard collective junctQín. In 2009, junctQín asked me to write a piece for three pianists performing on one piano. Their request triggered several interesting questions for me: What can be achieved on a piano if one person plays the instrument in a traditional way (pressing the keys and pedals) while a second one is playing the inside (with an e-bow and a tone bar, tools more commonly used by guitar players) and a third musician is operating a computer program that creates an immersive maelstrom of sounds by processing the sonorities of the two piano players?

The inside and outside sound worlds of the piano confront and connect with each other. For example, connections are intentionally achieved when one player creates a glissando by sliding a piece of metal along the very strings which are excited, hit by the hammers the second player has activated.

At first glance the score may look pretty sparse. However, those delicate sound processes that are created by the two players at the piano are fed into a computer program which densely superimposes them and projects them into the space. In this piece, the piano is used as a versatile sound device with a flexible resonator. All the harmonic relationships of the notes are based on four odd-numbered overtone series (starting with the low A key) which are collapsing into the middle B of the piano. This tone acts like a secret harmonic thread, often emphasized by an E-Bow which can infinitely sustain sound, contradicting the expected decay of a piano note.

In juncTions, a type of hyper-instrument is created from a common piano, freed from its inherent historical connotations; no longer referencing the piano music between Mozart and Stockhausen ... The only thing that matters now is the expansion of its sound into the space.

The unusual spelling of the title juncTions illustrates this principle quite well: The capital T serves as a junction which separates the four letters at its left and right side.


juncTions premiered by junctQín keyboard collective
Music Gallery, Toronto (17 Feb 2012)


juncTions premiered by junctQín keyboard collective
Music Gallery, Toronto (17 Feb 2012)



A grand piano with open lid. Player I is standing besides the instrument, playing its inner parts. Player II is sitting on a piano bench, performing on the keys and executing the pedals. The 3rd player, who operates the electronics is sitting close to the piano on a small table (equipped with an Apple laptop and a small MIDI controller), having eye contact with the other players.

Two loudspeakers on stands are positioned on the stage left and right of the piano, building a line with the edge of the keyboard. The other two loudspeakers are standing behind the audience. Ideally, the four loudspeakers would form a perfect square in order to obtain the required immersive sound environment that the computer is creating in realtime, only using the live input of the piano.


    Connect an audio interface and the USB MIDI controller to your Apple computer.

Plug the two condenser microphones into the two preamp channels of the audio interface and mount them on microphone stands. Now position the mics that one is capturing the low range of the piano, and the other the mid and high region. Carefully set the input level of the microphones on the preamps of your audio interface.

Start the juncTions application on an Apple computer. Choose "Audio..." from the "Settings" menu and select your input and your output devices. Afterward, switch „Audio“ to „On“.

The input level of the microphones (which are sent into the computer program) is notated a black curve in the IN field below the staff of Player II. The output level is another line drawn into the OUT field. Both levels are controlled by two faders of a small MIDI controller.

Numbers in boxes refer to certain presets which start a pre-determined processing of the sound. Press the space bar on the computer keyboard in order to switch to the next preset.

When hitting the [return] key on the computer keyboard, the next page of the score is displayed.


The score of juncTions can be downloaded for free. Please note that the music is protected by copyright.


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Updated: 19 Jan 2019