pour pianola – Studie für Pianola – Study for pianola – Studio per Pianola
Pianola: The word Pianola (Phonola) denotes a pneumatic automatophon which uses card containing holes, and comes from the family of the electric piano. There is practically no difference in construction between the pianola and the phonola. The names pianola and phonola refer to the different product names of competing companies, for which the greater historical worth came to the pianola, thanks to a different marketing strategy. Strictly speaking, the pianola is not an electric piano because the entire sound production is driven by pneumatic bellows and only the motor runs on electricity. The first commercially valid record of music played in this way dates back to an invention by the German firm Welte & Mignon which was based in Freiburg; this took place in 1904 by using a strip of holes to record the playing of a pianist so completely that not only the duration of the notes and the pitches but also the original dynamics and agogics could be reproduced up to the finest nuance. This process by Welte & Mignon was accepted worldwide. Numerous companies were created and there were virtually no pianists of note between the turn of the century and the end of the ‘20s who did not record their playing on hole cards. Furthermore, many contemporary composers saw in this instrument capable of recording and reproducing music a long-desired method of delivering their music authentically to the outside world. With the rise of the vinyl record these self-playing pianos lost their most important function. It was the English Music scientist Edwin Evans, born 1874, who in autumn 1917 made the proposition to the London firm, Aeolian, of not only using the pianola to reproduce music that had already been composed, but also to convince contemporary composers to write music directly for this automatophon. On 22nd September 1917, he informed Strawinsky, with whom he had been acquainted since 1913, of his initiative to the direction. He said that since Alfredo Casella was already staying in London, the permission had been given to him to negotiate a composition of this sort with the Italian. He asked Strawinsky to consider something similar and if he was interested, he would discuss the matter further. He further suggested to the board that existing compositions be arranged by contemporary composers for pianola. Contact between Strawinsky and Evans had been broken for three and a half years due to the war. Since the opera Le Rossignoland the Japanese Songs, Evans had heard nothing from Strawinsky but had learnt of some small pieces represented by Adolphe Henn which he greatly wanted to obtain. This can only refer to the four-hand compositions, the Cat's Cradle Songs or Pribautki . Evans was of the opinion that it was high time that Strawinsky re-introduced himself in England with performances. Strawinsky was very enamoured of this proposal for several reasons and wrote the Studie pour Pianola , unusually quickly for him, presumably to beat Casella to it.Bearing in mind that Evans was also looking to win other composers for the pianola, he would have been less happy.
Prospects of success: Success and hope for commercial success cannot have been particularly great, because otherwise the London firm would not have let almost 4 years pass before bringing the pianola rolls onto the market.
Style: Independently from the central requirement of producing a composition authentically which would quite generally be appropriate for the pianola, he needed the contract from the company in order to look for an idea of the composition; this was in order that it be as right for the instrument, in this case the pianola, as was possible at the time. What he came up with in this special case was trying to conjure up a Spanish style transferred to the pianola with three-note cadenzas/cadences coloraturas and the audible medley of sounds of Madrid at night and encapsulating the noisy cacophony of mechanical instruments in a small composition, to assimilate with the Spanish style of singing and in a completely different manner to emulate Glinka with this contribution. The Study for Pianolaincorporates elements of 'Española' from the Five Easy Piecesand the 'King’s March' from the Soldier’s Tale.
Dedication: According to Paul Collaer, the Study was dedicated to Madame Eugenia de Errazuriz.
Duration: 2' 45".
Date of origin: Le Diablerets / Morges, in the summer 1917 up to 28. Oktober 1917. It is possible that the arrangement for Pianola was drawn out beyond the 10th November 1917.
First performance: 13th October 1921, London, Aeolian Hall.
History of origin: Establishing the exact dates for the compositional period for the Study for Pianola creates questions because Strawinsky included the copy of the new work in a letter to Evans dated 28th October 1917, but he on his side dated a 6-system short score, which is today located in the Paul Sacher archive in Basel, with 10./11. 1917. Since Strawinsky at that time had not yet started writing his dates in the English style with the number of the month placed before, this must mean that he had made a mistake, and had meant 11 to be the day instead of the month or meant 10 to be the month and not the day; because the idea that he had sent Evans manuscripts and then himself continued work until the acceptance of the contract or arranged the piece onto 6 systems, is highly unlikely. Craft printed a fragment of an undateable draft letter in which he states that he was in the process of producing certain pages in a special arrangement, and that he would send these pages on in approximately 10 days. This draft sounds as if he was not referring to the Study for Pianola, but probably to the Petrushka arrangement, for which he had compiled a small list of metronome marking errors and other things. By11th November 1917 however, the manuscripts had still not reached Evans. What the Germans had to do with this cannot be discovered. Evans wrote on 11th November to Strawinsky that he presumed that the manuscript was still with the censor, which did not shock him, as the “boches” at the time mistrusted even their own music. An observation by Craft regarding this reference proves that the manuscript reached Evans 2 days later, so on13th November 1917 .
In order to resolve the two contradictory statements, it must be discovered whether there was an earlier letter from Strawinsky to Edwin Evans offering his Study for Pianola, before the letter from Edwin Evans to Strawinsky dated22nd September 1917 . Such a letter was also not documented by Craft.In March 1916, Strawinsky travelled to Spain for the first time in order to meet Diaghilev, who had returned safe and sound from his journey to North America, but was still very afraid of the German submarines. The Germans had found out that the Italian passenger ship which was bringing him home, was in fact one of the many munitions transporters belonging to the Americans intended for England or France which were disguised as civilian and that they therefore wanted to sink the ship. Strawinsky wrote fully about his Spanish experiences and impressions in his calendar biography as was otherwise not his manner. Still quite fascinated by futuristic noises and sounds, with which Strawinsky was also familiar in 1915 when he awed Russolos Russolophon, he was so impressed ‘by the droll and unexpected musical chaos of the mechanical piano and musical automata in the streets at night and the small taverns of Madrid’ that he was enthused by the offer of writing a piece for pianola, independent of all other reasons. This is because it gave him the possibility of capturing the world of mechanical musical instruments in a composition for a mechanical musical instrument, an idea which presented itself and which had been developed with classical collections of instruments and by other composers at appropriate points, but which had never been taken back to a mechanical instrument. When the London-based Aeolian Company then asked him in 1917 for an original composition for pianola he fulfilled this wish just as happily as when he recorded the especially touching impressions of his first visit to Spain and at the same time was able to deliver a completely new type of composition in its own right. The motivation for this came with a letter from Edwin Evans of 22nd December 1917. It was the English music scientist Edwin Evans (1874 – 1945) who put Strawinsky in contact with Aeolian. Strawinsky became acquainted with the medium of the pianola after he had attended a demonstration of the instrument by the London firm in Summer 1914. On 28th October 1917, he sent the manuscript to Evans, who only received it on 13th November due to the events of the War. It can be ruled out, despite a surviving sketch, that Strawinsky still was working on the composition of the study after this date. Strawinsky was composing the study as a piece for two pianos, as surviving sketches prove and was writing it on a six-line particell with 4 treble and 2 bass systems. The arrangement for pianola was carried out by in-house specialists, including Esther Willis, who was highly regarded by Philip Heseltine, the owner of Aeolian. The technicians clearly had problems in transferring Strawinsky’s music on to the holed cards. The original score was too complicated for what they had done before, so that some differences between the original and the mechanical realization had to be proposed, especially as Strawinsky was using all the registers of the pianola and writing the chords so densely that they could only be executed using the capabilities of an electric piano. Strawinsky’s Study for Pianolamust also have suffered from the technical difficulty of holding on single notes for longer periods of time. With respect to this, it can be established by examination of the current condition of surviving pianola roles that Strawinsky’s compositions was not in hindsight a technically elaborate or even problematic piece. The difficulties posed by Strawinsky can therefore only refer to problems which have their basis in the newness of the arrangement and with increasing experience with elaborately-constructed compositions, became groundless.
When he sent the piece to Evans on 28th October 1917, Strawinsky demanded for himself, along with a fee of 500 Swiss francs, the right to arrange his Study for a different ensemble at any time and to retain the author's rights to such an arrangement, publication and performance. For the fee, the company had to transfer the work onto pianola or different mechanical instruments, and in doing so gain the right of publication. Furthermore, he gave up a financial portion of the income from the demonstration of the rolls. The negotiations around the contract, which can now be seen in detail, came upon ever new difficulties. The English firm Orchestrelle Company was basically in agreement, but according to the specifications of the English rights, new problems arose. Whether this was the reason why the piece was first published in 1921, although Evans had confirmed in a letter of 17th November 1917 that the rolls would be made as soon as possible, bearing in mind that this was in the final phase of the First World War, cannot be said without an insight into the files. Evans wrote further that it must be confirmed that the amount of 500 Swiss francs would be a one-off payment for the Study for Pianola and the company would not be entering into any obligation for the future which would depend on the success of this experimental venture. On 24th November 1917 Strawinsky compiled a putative plan for the deciding passage of the contract, which even then had not been signed. According to this, the firm should pay 500 Swiss francs and have for this the exploitation right for mechanical instruments, but only for private and not public performances, Strawinsky would have the right to produce a different version and to sell it. Evans responded on 11th December 1917 with new thoughts. Strawinsky’s new demands would create new difficulties and would bring him only minimal gains. For Evans, this was all too complicated. He advised Strawinsky to give up this point and to accept the money from the company along with a simple contract. If the matter were successful and this type of music were to be a success , he would be able to arrange advantageous conditions in the future, but until that time, he would have to wait a little longer. At this same time, the negotiations for the arrangement of Petrushka and Sacre for pianola were taking place. The state of English law allowed the mechanical reproduction of works of musical art free of any fee once they had first been published. A composer would not be able to derive any financial rights from such a reproduction. This matter gave rise to disputes about the subrogation rights, which were incomprehensible to Strawinsky, between Aeolian (Orchestrelle Company) and Strawinsky, so that Strawinsky entered discussions with his lawyer in Geneva, Philippe Dunant. For Petrushka, he was guaranteed 2.5%, and for Sacre 5% per roll sold, but the former was published not by Aeolian but by Pleyela, and the latter by Pleyela and the Aeolian Company. The matter was further delayed and a fragment of the letter from Strawinsky to Ernest Ansermet from 6th June 1919 shows the entire extent of Strawinsky's irritation that had arisen in the meantime. A solid contract was however made as a result of the negotiations with Aeolian in 1923 which arranged for him to be able to rework a large part of his printed works complete or in excerpts for reproduction for pianola, which he had already been doing for two years in the Parisian Maison Pleyel in a separate Studio; he confirmed this in a letter to Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz in a letter of 18th August 1921 and mentioned proudly that the matter interested him a great deal and that he had invented some special tricks. For Pianola, Pleyela published in the series of piano etudes, Op. 7: Firebird with an autobiographical sketch about Strawinsky’s life in the year 1910 along with a literary and musical analysis and in a complete version of the ballet, Le Sacre du Printemps ,played by Strawinsky, the first movement of the Piano Concerto, again played by Strawinsky, as well as the first movement of the Piano Sonata, performed by the composer, with commentaries by Edwin Evans, Pulcinella, the Piano-Rag-Music, along with the 3 and the 5 Simple Pieces for Four Hands, Petrushka, the Five Fingers, the Song of the Nightingale, the Stories for Children, the Four Russian Songs, the Concertinoand Les Noces Villageoises .
Table of Strawinsky transcriptions for player piano
a) Duo-Art (Aeolian)
Four Studies for piano Op.7 Pianola T 22596A
Pianola T 22597B
Pianola T 22598A
Pianola T 22599B
Firebird* Duo-Art D 759
Duo-Art D 761
Duo-Art D 763
Duo-Art D 765
Duo-Art D 767
Duo-Art D 769
Pianola D 760
Pianola D 762
Pianola D 764
Pianola D 766
Pianola D 768
Pianola D 770
Sacre Pianola T 24150/53C
Study for Pianola Pianola D 967B
Concerto for piano ** Duo-Art D 528G
Sonata pour piano*** Duo-Art D 231
Pianola D 232
* An autobiographical sketch of Strawinsky’s life in 1910 with a literary and musical analysis and a complete reproduction of the ballet played by Strawinsky.
** Only the first movement, played by Strawinsky.
*** Only the first movement, played by Strawinsky, with observations by Edwin Evans.
Three easy pieces 8439
Five easy pieces 8440
The five fingers 8448-8449
The Song of the Nightingale 8451-8453
Tales for children 8454
Four Russian Songs 8455
Les Noces Villageoises 8431-8434
Situationsgeschichte: The interest in the pianola stems just as much from the cause at the time as from Strawinsky’s striving for unconditional authenticity, which made him at the time regard every interpreter as someone who disturbs the original idea, insofar as he did not reproduce the musical conception of the author in this respect (he later changed his mind on this). One even went so far as to translate the Italian play on words “traduttore-traditore” (translator-traitor) onto the reproducing musicians. As the only method of demonstration for conveying the actual compositional idea in an authentic version, there was only the pianola at the time, and some of his compositions in the time before vinyl were published on pianola rolls. Strawinsky was certainly not the only composer to toy with this idea. The attempts of Paul Hindemith or other composers (Ernst Toch, Joseph Haas) in Berlin to notate directly onto rolls or later onto wax discs and thus produce soundworlds, which were authentic and would overcome the technical limitation of an original keyboard were also part of this concept. These are seen nowadays as the forerunners of electronic music. The actual problem of the pianola was ended with the rise of the vinyl record. In the end, Strawinsky followed a strongly rhythmic style after Sacre which was based around sounds but without being futurist, like that of Balla, whom he met in the year of composition of the Study . At the same time as the Study for Pianola, he had already completed the composition of the majority of the Les Noces project, for which he was considering writing a score for ‘polyphonic units’, i.e. combining mechanical musical instruments, such as the electric piano and electric harmonium, with voice parts and standard orchestral instruments, which was turned out a short time later to be unachievable. When things did not proceed as Strawinsky had imagined and Evans was certainly not at fault for it, Evans received the usual negative comments for such situations. In his anthology of letters, Craft characterized Evans as an early friend of Strawinsky. The works in the early time that he wrote about Strawinsky would have met with Strawinsky’s agreement. In a letter from Strawinsky to Ansermet of 6th June 1919, one reads something different, with Strawinsky characterizing Evans as ‘ brave ’ but, as he defines the word ‘ brave ’ in the subsequent parenthesis, as a naïve and under-intelligent man ( naïve et pas très intelligent ), which did not prevent Strawinsky from having him write the commentary to the arrangement of the Firebird for Pianola a short time later. At the time of the letter to Ansermet however, the dispute over the priority of ideas was already raging. No-one had given him the commission for the composition of the Study for Pianola. Futhermore, Evans had learnt of the existence of the piece from a letter which he had written to him in Autumn 1917 with the request of helping him find a representative for it. Soon after this, the curious idea ( drôles d’idées ) of building up an entire pianola repertoire in a short time in order to give talks about it and to depict themselves publicly as the originators of the matter. Strawinsky declared ( Je déclare = Craft translates ‘ déclare ’ as swear, which certainly does not correspond to the meaning), that no one had given him a commission for the composition and that this was happening without objection over his contract with Aeolian. Casella’s contribution to this matter clearly demonstrates Evans’s finesse, in that he had taken care of the commission, for which it remained for Ansermet to reconcile the ‘ brave ’ and ‘ finesse ’ of Evans. Naturally, Evans did not give a commission to Strawinsky, and he was not legitimated to do so. What is certain is that Casella was consulted before Strawinsky was and that Casella’s composition was also publicized before Strawinsky’s. Finally, it is correct that Evans had made Strawinsky aware of his idea of creating such a series of pianola works, and that he had discussed the matter with Casella; he had offered the latter enough so that he could turn to him if he were interested in the matter or prepared to take into account the peculiarities of the pianola. This does not sound like the answer to a previous letter. Strawinsky’s letter of 28th October 1917 does not in any case sound like the fulfillment of a commission, rather in fact an offer under conditions, as it had been represented by Strawinsky to Ansermet; in any case, there was no request made to Evans that he makes efforts to find a representative, because the representative had already been known for a long time. On the other hand, Strawinsky, who was full of ideas, could also have fallen through on it independently of Evans of developing a specific composition for the pianola. It is also believable that Strawinsky, afraid of an exceptional position, was up against a series of composers in which he would have been one name among many others who would presumably have been very small-fry. As long as no other pieces that prove this appear or the pieces that are in dated order are not be brought into question, it can be assumed that: 1. Evans informed Strawinsky of the possibility of the production of one or several compositions for pianola and was already in discussion with Casella about the same matter; 2. Strawinsky received no commission but rather a proposal or invitation; 3. Strawinsky, on the lookout for new representatives and new sources of income, used the opportunity to begin discussions in England and to offer a fresh composition; 4. Strawinsky reacted very quickly, which could have had three reasons, separate or in combination: a) he had an already written composition to hand; b) he needed money; c) he knew that he was up against Casella, who wrote more easily than him, and he wanted to offer his piece earlier than the latter, which he managed. The contract, concerning which Strawinsky consulted Ansermet, is no proof of this, because it was signed after the delivery of the manuscripts. It was presumably the suggestion to Casella that caused Strawinsky to complete his work so unusually quickly for his methods. In fact, he finished a month before Alfredo Casella and thus established a reputation of being a priority. In a letter from Casella to Strawinsky of 1st December 1917, Casella stated that he had been invited to write several pieces for pianola during his stay in England, with which he had been occupying himself with since then. Casella however was too late. His suite Tre pezzi per Pianola , which consisted of a prelude, waltz and ragtime, was published in 1918. Strawinsky certainly accepted the friendly wishes of Casella, who was amicable towards him, with satisfaction.
Significance: The study for pianola is the first composition written directly for an electronic, mechanical instrument in music history.
Versions: The Study for Pianola was orchestrated by 1929 at the latest and was taken up with the subtitle 'Madrid' as the fourth number into the Quatre Études pour Orchestre. Soulima Strawinsky completed a transcription for two pianos of the work which was published by Boosey & Hawkes in 1951. The piano transcription was not made from the pianola version, but as a piano reduction of the fourth Etude for orchestra ( Quatre Études pour Orchestre).
Historical Record: Pianola T 967 B, 1921.
CD edition: only the orchestral version together with the four Orchestral Studies.
Autograph: The manuscript went to the dedicatee, Madame Eugenia Errazuriz. At the same opportunity, he also gave her the sketch book for the Five Simple Pieces for Four Hands . Since Strawinsky, as a Russian could not pass from Switzerland to France, the transfer of the material was made by Alfred Cortot, who at the time was a sort of State Undersecretary in the Ministry of Art in Paris. The letter does not state whether Madame Errazuriz received the autograph score or the neat copy of the manuscript intended for London, or whether Strawinsky copied the manuscript for London, as there is no printed version. Strawinsky presumably produced or had produced several copies, one of which went to Errazuriz, another was sent to London and another he kept himself. This copy, which Strawinsky must still have had in 1917 according to Robert Craft, must then have gone missing, because it was not in the estate. Strawinsky himself was not in possession of any copies after 1918.
Publisher: The Aeolian Company Ltd., London, als Pianola-Rolle T 967 B .
K Catalog: Annotated Catalog of Works and Work Editions of Igor Strawinsky till 1971, revised version 2014 and ongoing, by Helmut Kirchmeyer.
© Helmut Kirchmeyer. All rights reserved.
http://www.kcatalog.org and http://www.kcatalog.net