Piano Interactions #1 and #2 were written as part of the Digital Music Interactions project, funded by a grant from the Johns Hopkins Technology Fellowship program. Piano Interactions #1 was awarded First Prize in the Ninth annual Prix D'Été Composition Competition for instrumental and electroacoustic music. The Prix D'Été competition, established by Walter Summer in 1994, encourages Peabody Institute graduate and undergraduate composition students to create chamber music that explores new instrumental, vocal, computer and multi-media horizons. The piece was premiered by Ann Teresa Kang in a special performance at the Peabody Institute on April 15, 2004, in the Friedberg Concert Hall. Piano Interactions #2 was premiered by Chryssie Nanou at the 2004 Third Practice Festival in Richmond, Virginia.
Interactions #1 attempts to create a subtle soundscape of delicate piano gestures and related computer-processed recorded phrases while allowing the pianist to control the nuances of phrasing and timing with a footpedal soundfile triggering system. The piece should be played with a light and somewhat dreamy air, with the pianist feeling free to extend each phrase as long as he or she wishes. When played with the subsequent pieces Interactions #2 and Interactions #3 the performer should treat the three pieces as related movements of a larger work, starting each subsequent piece while the last soundfile of the previous piece is fading out.
Interactions #2 is structured as a two-voiced canon where each phrase that the pianist performs returns in transposed form. By using computer processing to capture and subsequently play back the initial performance of each phrase, the computer enables a pianist to create rhythmically-complex and harmonically challenging structures without the aid of any other musicians. Like the first piano Interaction in the series (Interaction #1 for piano and triggered-tape), the pianist communicates with the computer by pressing a MIDI triggering pedal. When the computer senses the pedal has been pressed, it begins recording the sound of the piano through a microphone and, if the piece is not right at the beginning, plays back the recording of the previous phrase played by the piano. Additional processing is performed by the computer that causes the recorded sound to be transposed up or down an interval ranging from a perfect octave (12 half-steps) to thirteen half-steps, to fourteen half-steps. The pianist is therefore playing a duet with him or herself, and must be continually conscious about the future impact any dynamic or tempo modulation might have.