This was my first Tenori-On piece ever. When I first got my Tenori-On I had no idea how to go about composing music on it. So I looked to YouTube for inspiration. There were numerous examples of Tenori-On music, including “official” videos from the inventor himself, Toshio Iwai. But most of the examples I watched demonstrated the Tenori-On being played live and ad-hoc. I wanted an example of a “proper” musical piece that had been programmed beforehand and then played out.
And I found it in a Tenori-On piece by Gattobus. Gattobus has several Tenori-On pieces on YouTube; he also uses the instrument in conjunction with other synthesizers. But, of all the YouTube videos I saw, one in particular stood out. It was “Dreaming” by Gattobus. (I am unable to share his link here as it seems to always revert to an “video unavailable” message, but if you search YouTube for “Gattobus Dreaming” you can watch it directly from there).
And so, armed with this inspiration, I set out to create my own Tenori-On musical style.
I wanted to be able to create pieces that had discernible patterns or themes, and to be able to play variations of those patterns. I also wanted my compositions to have distinct beginnings, developing middle sections and satisfying resolutions at the end. And all this within the constraints of 16 “blocks” with which I had at my disposal. And the piece had to be playable in one sitting, without relying on recording one composition and then layering another over it to fill up the musical layers.
That proved hard to do. So I had to think outside the box. Somehow, I had to be able to create a sense of many layers of sound, like many instruments playing their own part, but I also had to make those parts stand out on their own and not become a muddy jumble. I also devised a way of “expanding” the music by programming some layers to move at a slower or faster pace than others. This meant that even though the same block was being played twice or even four times over, to the listener it wasn’t apparent, as at each turn the different layers would all be playing a different point of their cycle, so it sounded like a variation of a theme instead. And that is why in some of my pieces you can hear some themes developing at a slower pace than others.
To further separate the many layers of sound, I used different volumes for each voice. There are also several Tenori-On voices that I like to utilise for their prolonged flanging tones, that aren’t just a flat sound, but which evolve over a period of time and thus add further interest to a piece.
Here is my “Ballade”, you can play it directly from my Soundcloud page or via Internet Explorer or whatever browser you use. I hope you enjoy listening to it!
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