Just Calls for Brass
Godfried-Willem Raes



This piece was composed as a demonstration for the possibilities of the four automated brass instruments I had more or less finished by the end of 2008: <Korn>, a cornet, <Bono>, the valve trombone, <Heli>, the helicon and <So>, the sousaphone. These robots are capable of playing in just about any imaginable tone system. To demonstrate this, the quartet was written using the platonic and quite unreal just-intonation system. All harmonies at any instant in the piece are based on integer multiples of a fundamental pitch. This fundamental pitch however -in contrast with usual applications of just intonation- shifts throughout the composition in just fifths, something quite unimaginable to obtain with normal instruments and players as it would require them to retune the fundamental pitch of their instruments all the time. In principle the piece could have an infinite duration, -without ever repeating- since the circle of fifths never closes as it really rather forms a spiral. However we imposed a governing and stochastically defined formal principle in the underlying algorithms of the piece, such that it comes to a solution and a musical end once the tonal center has shifted a bit more than a quartertone.

A second musical layer in the piece makes use of the wide collection of musical robots capable of producing pitched sounds, often not conforming to the standard A=440Hz tuning in equal temperament. These include <Vacca> and <Vitello>, two cowbell playing robots; <Belly>, a carillon; <Harma>, a reed organ tuned to A=435Hz and hence 20 cents low; <Vibi>, a vibraphone tuned to A=442Hz and hence 8 cents high; <Tubi>, <Xy>, <Puff> three quartertone instruments in 24-tone equal temperament (A=452Hz for the quartertones, or 50 cents high).

The composition is entirely embedded in software written within the framework of my <GMT> programming language and its extensive harmony libraries. It cannot be performed by human players. The duration can vary between 4 and 8 minutes. Some aspects of the piece can be controlled in real time: the tempo as well as the balance between the four brass instruments. The four robots for which this piece was performed are shown in the pictures below:

<Korn> <Bono> <Heli> <So>


'Just Calls for Brass' was premiered in a first public try out on 18th of December 2008 by the author and his robot orchestra, as a tribute to La Monte Young, one of the founding fathers of the fluxus movement.

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P.S.: Voor uitvoeringen van dit stuk moeten noch mogen auteursrechten worden betaald. Elke poging tot inning van auteursrechten naar aanleiding van publieke uitvoeringen van dit stuk, inklusief opnames ervan, kan gerechterlijk als poging tot afpersing worden vervolgd.

Last update: December 19, 2008

Technical notes:

This piece is compiled in m_robots.exe. After selecting the required ports (midi or UDP), select the <Korn> robot in the GMT menu. The piece is started by checking the 'BrasCall' task in the cockpit. It runs completely automatic and no user intervention is required. The duration is circa 6 minutes, but may vary from run to run.

Godfried-Willem Raes, december 14th, 2008.