About John Holland

John Holland is a composer and Professor Emeritus in the Studio for Interrelated Media at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. In the early 1980's, he co-founded Nature and Inquiry, an artists group that meets weekly to discuss ideas in art and science. The group has presented work at the MIT Media Lab, the Harvard Smithsonian Observatory, Habitat Institute, The Copley Gallery in Boston, to name a few. For the past 20 years he has taught a class that introduces artists to leading-edge ideas in science. In 2001 the Boston Globe reported that Nature, Science and Art was the most popular class at the College.

‘Mapping the Musical Genome’ and ‘The Musical Landscape’

Janko Piano

MAPPING THE MUSICAL GENOME Nos. 1-12 for Piano Solo  (Realization for Digital Piano) (2011)

Typically, music is composed by organizing a set of available tones and their octave displacements in such a way that the music expresses a particular quality, idea, or set of emotions. In these piano pieces, however, rather than using the 12 tones of the chromatic scale as a means of outwardly expressing music, I am intentionally focusing the listener’s attention inwardly on the fundamental elements of the musical scale itself, its melodic and harmonic structures, meters, and interval relationships including the Natural Harmonic Series (tempered, in this case). I liken the 12 tones of the chromatic scale to the 4 DNA chemical base pairs that, organized in combination, have evolved to create all life forms, including the human genome.

Each piece in the set is organized according to a unique ‘musico-genomic’ strategy. In the first piece, for example, the chromatic intervals are presented in order, each with its own time meter (the intervals of a second are played in 2/4 time, thirds in 3/4 time, etc.). In piece No. 4, Variations, there is a short 7-measure theme in C major followed by 11 (7-measure) variations (in the other 11 keys) each of which is composed in a different musical style ranging from early music, baroque and classical to serial, modern, and post-modern. No. 8 Echoes of the Past juxtaposes 5 familiar canons or rounds. No. 7 Scale Model in White is strictly diatonic (white keys only). And so on.

1. The Chromatic Intervals in Numeric Order 3:16
2. Chromaton 4:04
3. The Chromatic Scale Is Its Own Music Box     2:50
4. Variations on a Collapsing Sequence (in Historical Perspective)   3:01
5. Scale Model in Alternately Expanding Keys     4:08
6. The Staircase     2:21
7. Scale Model in White     2:50
8. Echoes from the Past (5-Voice Canon)     4:36
9. Spiral Canon     3:48
10. Measured Rhythms     4:41
11. Inside Out     2:34
12. Stepping Stones     1:56

Duration: 40:49

Felted Musical Landscape

THE MUSICAL LANDSCAPE for Fixed Media (Synthesizers, Electronic Music, Digital Samples) (2012)

In this music there are seven pieces that explore the basic foundations of the equally-spaced tones of the musical landscape. These pieces look inward into the deep structural landscape of music itself. Rather than using familiar musical elements as a forum for individual expression, the music incorporates primary elements and structures that directly underpin the tonal landscape. Some pieces cycle through various tonal regions based on a given melodic pattern, others draw on increasing and decreasing interval relationships. Native scale patterns, varied repetition, and exploration of tonal boundaries can be heard throughout the music.

In addition, the seven pieces are interspersed with six short electro-acoustic Interludes that refer to the continuous spectrum of physical sound as a reminder of the larger context in which the landscape of western music resides. Collectively, the Interludes include glissandi, microtonalities associated with world music, electronic sounds, biophonic sounds probably first produced and perceived on Earth by insects, various bird sounds, wind-like sounds, a chimpanzee, a human female voice, and artificial speech sounds.

1. Cross-Over     3:12
2. Interlude No. 1     0:40
3. Subtle Turns, Deceptive Glances     5:04
4. Interlude No. 2     0:20
5. Shifting Plateau     1:49
6. Interlude No. 3     0:40
7. Tonal Horizon     2:42
8. Interlude No. 4     0:32
9. Outer Boundaries     2:05
10. Interlude No. 5     0:40
11. Interior Landscape     3:45
12. Interlude No. 6     0:40
13. Mechanical Butterfly     2:58
Duration: 25:51