Premiere: Köln, ON - Neue Musik Köln, 13.03.2013. Piano: Pavlos Antoniadis
Some years ago I found the canon enigmatico [enigmatic canon] from Manuel Cardoso, a portuguese composer from the 17th Century. The canon enigmatico was a common praxis in the 16th Century and consists in hiding one of the polyphonic voices of a piece. Instead of music notation the composer writes in the Tenor II or Alto a text that should be deciphered to reconstruct the music. Manuel Cardoso wrote 1625 one of the most cryptic canons which, as far as I know, was only deciphered by the musicologist Mário de Sampayo Ribeiro in the 20th Century. The sentence is this one in Latin: Qui sequitur via recta non ambulat in tenebris which could be freely translated as "who follows me through a straight way will not be walking in the darkness". The part who follows me through a straight way means that you should read the Superius I backwards from the end to the beginning. The second part will not be walking in the darkness means that you should take the Superius I and read only the white notes (whole and half notes) and ignore the black ones (quarter and eight notes).
A fascinating form of obscure mystery that once solved allows the piece to be performed with all voices.
Music for White Keys means to be an Homage to Frei Manuel Cardoso. I applied a similar process not to the pitch but to rhythm: It is an algorithmic process where only the white keys of a keyboard are used. All the notes and rhythms are, in this case, from Chopin except for the black keys which are substituted by rests.
The first examples are from Chopin op. 18, the Grand Valse Brillante and Etude op. 10 nr. 5, the Black Keys Etude.