Kurzweil K2000 sampler (1990, rev. 2000)
I Dig A Pygmy was commissioned in 1990 by the University of Massachusetts Lowell to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of John Lennon. The piece consists entirely of spoken and sung materials—samples from music by Lennon and the Beatles, and words spoken by Lennon in interviews—in the tradition of Stockhausen and Berio, but with two added dimensions. Whereas musique concrète often exploited the sound of the voice for its emotional and musical content, rather than the literal meaning of the text, I wanted to make the samples I used intelligible, so they would have textual value for the audience, as well as aural. Maintaining a balance between intelligibility and sonic interest created a tension in the design of the piece I found quite challenging.
The other added dimension was that rather than compose for fixed media, I wanted to do piece that would be played live, with as much improvisation as possible, in front of an audience. In essence, I wanted to create a “hyper-instrument,” made up of “fragments” of John Lennon. First I would build it, then I would learn it, and then I would perform on it.
The structure I came up with consisted of five sections, each with a different set of samples mapped across the keyboard. The sections are played in a pre-determined order, and the beginning and end of each section is fixed, so that the transitions are predictable. What happens within each section, however, is improvised, and therefore the length is flexible.
The piece was originally composed in stereo for a Roland S-770 sampler and an AKG ADR68K reverb, and in 1995 was reprogrammed for a Kurzweil K2000 sampler. The four-channel version was programmed in 2000.
Paul D. Lehrman
Paul D. Lehrman studied electronic music at Columbia University under Vladimir Ussachevsky, Mario Davidovsky, and Charles Dodge, and received a BFA in orchestral performance as a bassoonist from Purchase College Conservatory. He has a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies (Music/Electrical Engineering/Art History) from Tufts University. He was the principal author of the longtime standard college text on MIDI, MIDI For The Professional (Music Sales Corp.), has consulted for many electronic music hardware and software companies including Yamaha, Roland, and Kurzweil, and served as executive director of the MIDI Manufacturers Association for four terms. He has been a columnist for Recording Engineer/Producer and Mixmagazines, and a contributor to Wired, SoundOnSound, and many other publications.
His music has been heard on films shown on PBS, A&E, BBC, Canal+, Arte, and France 3, and he has received numerous commissions for live performance works involving computers. His 1999 realization of George Antheil’s 1924 Ballet Mécanique for MIDI-driven player pianos has put him on the stage at Carnegie Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, and San Francisco’s Davies Hall, among many others, and his documentary film about the project, Bad Boy Made Good, was shown on PBS and has won festival prizes in the US and Europe.
He taught in the Sound Recording Technology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and since 2000 has been on the faculty of Tufts University where he teaches courses in computer music, musical instrument design, and electronic music history, and is the director of the program in Music Engineering.