Yudishthira's Quartet, by Barbara Benary
Programmed by Nick Didkovsky in JSyn and JMSL
This online implementation dedicated to Open
Most of the comments below are taken from Barbara
Benary's specification of her piece, Yudishthira's Quartet.
Yudishthira's Quartet is a double quartet for computer and live gamelan
in which various musical parameters are determined by random decisions.
The first version of the software was programmed by Nick Didkovsky in February
of 1988 on an Amiga 1000 computer, using the experimental music programming
language HMSL. The piece was premiered by Gamelan Son of Lion the same
year. The version presented here was also programmed by Nick, using the
music languages JSyn and JMSL.
A performance of Yudishthira's Quartet calls for the computer version
performing at one end of the hall, and a live gamelan performing simultaneously
(but not necessarily in tempo synch) at the other. The version presented
here is only the software version (as opposed to additionally emulating
the live gamelan, for example).
Yudishthira is an epic hero from the Indian Mahabharata. He is a king who
compulsively gambles away his kingdom, family, and self into slavery. There
are no computers in the epic, but insofar as the machine represents perfect
randomness, the interplay may be seen as the imperfect randomness of man
in juxtaposition to the ideal.
The numbers being randomized in this piece are 1-4 and 1-10. Four was
chosen because it is a quartet in the sense that four melodic octaves may
be playing in either of the "bands." Ten was chosen because the combined
scales of Son of Lion's slendro and pelog
yield 10 different pitches among which to choose.
The piece consists of ten sound sections with variable spaces of rest between
them. Whenever playing, the instruments hold to these rhythmic relationships:
Each section consists of four pitches chosen at random from Gamelan Son
of Lion's tuning, which is a 10 pitch scale which results when the Slendro
and the Pelog scales are merged. Players improvise melodies using these
4 pitches. The live player's score has these pitches chosen beforehand.
The computer version chooses the pitches in real time. Each section also
has a randomly chosen dynamic level. Again, live players have these levels
prepared, the computer chooses the dynamics in realtime.
slentem: 2 seconds
demung: 1.0 second
saron: 0.5 seconds
peking: 0.25 seconds
Computer program guidelines
The program cycles ten times, making the following choices each time around:
A random selection of 4 notes from the combined pelog and slendro tunings.
A randomly selected timbre chosen from 10 presets. All voices use the same
timbre for the given section. The ten timbres should sound distinctly different
from each other and should sound "electronic." Because of the multiple
voices, avoid buzzy timbres.
A randomly selected number of players from 1 to 4. These players represent
the four octave range of the gamelan
balungen instruments. Also select
which of the four voices shall play, ie if there is only one voice, it
need not be player #1.
Player #1 plays continuous 1 second whole notes, octave 1 (slentem)
Player #2 plays continuous 0.5 second half notes, octave 2 (demung)
Player #3 plays continuous 0.25 second quarter notes, octave 3 (saron)
Player #4 plays continuous 0.125 second eighth notes, octave 4 (peking)
Random melody: every note a player hits is randomly chosen from among the
four notes that characterize the section.
A randomly selected loudness level out of four possible.
A randomly selected duration of the sound section, of 16, 32, 64, or 128
A silence of randomly selected duration of 4, 8, 12, or 16 seconds after
Comments by Nick
Some technical and personal reflections
on the software realization.
JMSL and JSyn
JSyn is Phil Burk's realtime music synthesis
language. JMSL is an experimental music programming language by Nick Didkovsky
and Phil Burk, which is based on HMSL. Both JSyn and JMSL are written in
Java, which allows for pieces to be presented on the Web.
For JSyn info, please visit www.softsynth.com
For JMSL info, please visit www.algomusic.com