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seven percent etudes

Digital Sheet Music [PDF]: Score

seven percent etudes : 3 etudes for piano [eScore] / Connor D'Netto.

by Connor D'Netto (2023)

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Coady Greene asked me to write a suite of etudes while taking some time post hand surgery to focus on single hand works. Lamenting the lack of right-hand-only repertoire compared to the glut of rep for left-hand, he wanted an etude for each hand alone plus a third with both together, maybe inspired by a pair of notable LGBTQIA+ figures, their work/life alone and together. While starting to explore that idea I became side-tracked by a single figure, Alan Turing, on whom instead I decided to solely focus, and in particular focusing on his works and the works they inspired.

In the Eurorack Modular Synth world (a deep dark never ending rabbit warren which I fell down a few years back, and which we shan't delve too far into), there is a little piece of equipment designed by Tom Whitwell by Music Thing Modular called the "Turing Machine". In Tom's words, the Turing Machine is:

"a binary sequencer, based around a 16 bit memory circuit called a shift register. It's a sequencer that you can steer in one direction or another, not one that you can program precisely [...] The Turing Machine is not a real Turing Machine the way Alan Turing explained it. The name is vaguely relevant because the module uses a loop of data being changed, but the similarity ends there."

I have one of these modules and it's a truly fascinating way to while away the time exploring variations of an idea. Without going into all the details of what it does and how, at its core is the ability to set the probability that each note in a repeating sequence might change. The first two etudes take this ideal from Tom's Turing Machine's as a starting point, setting a seven percent chance of change on each repetition - as a musical motif repeats, there is a coin toss with a seven percent chance of success run for each note, and if successful, I would write a new note, and so with each repetition the motif gradually evolves, gradually trialling permutations as if a code cracking machine. This seven percent chance of change process was applied to other parameters, bar length, bass note, key/harmony etc, creating a process of regular prompts to explore change.

The third etude builds on this process, combining it with an exploration of Alan Turing's own Turing Machine, or at least my somewhat surface level attempt at understanding this ground- breaking design that laid the foundation for modern computing. In the most basic terms, a Turning Machine is a device that has a reel of tape on to which it can read, write, erase, or move the tape along in either direction. A true Turing Machine could theoretically replicate any program, working in binary, so in 0 and 1 and given a formula of what it should do based on what it reads at each step. And so, in my little homage to Turing's incredible invention, a string of 0s and 1s unfolds as the rhythms for the final etude. In sum, I hope these etudes might be a gentle meditation of sorts, and perhaps prompt those interested to explore the fascinating life and work of Alan Turing.

Published by: Australian Music Centre — 1 digital (PDF) facsimile score (11p. -- A4 (portrait))

Difficulty: Advanced

Duration: 10 min.

Commission info: Commissioned by Coady Green.

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