Martin Riches - Flute Playing Machine
  Year :   1983
  Location :   Germany
  Worktype :   Sound sculpture
  Info :  

  Work Details  
  One of the oldest items in my Riches file is a photograph of me and Martin in 1983 standing behind the Flute Playing Machine, with one of my Reversibles passing through the instrument. This was our first collaboration, and one of our most successful, and it continues to be on the program almost every time Martin shows the Flute Playing Machine. The Reversibles are written on transparent acetate sheets, and are read by the instrumentís photo-electric eye. The black markings on the transparent sheets trigger off messages describing when to pass air from the little wind chest up to the carefully engineered mouthpiece of the robotic flute, and when to activate the metal fingers. Each of the eight sheets passes through the machine forward and backward, then turned over, forward and backward again, producing four very short related pieces. Musicians learn very early that you can run a melody in four directions. In counterpoint classes they call this the original, the inversion, the retrograde, and the retrograde inversion, and they show you how J.S.Bach often turned his melodies upside-down or backwards or both. Composers of 12-tone music habitually turned their rows in all four directions, and in fact, this is a pretty common technique in many kinds of music. All of this flipping becomes quite different with the Flute Playing Machine though, because here the manipulation is so visible. When Martin shuts off the motor, shifts his machine into reverse gear, and sends the acetate sheet back in the other direction, you can see, as well as hear, that the music is the reverse of what you just heard. Then, when he takes the sheet out of the reader and turns it over, it is obvious that it can run back and forth under the photo cells once again and produce two more variations of the same music. In Paris, when I play a recording of the Reversibles, without the presence of the machine, listeners hear that the four 30-second movements are related, but they never really grasp the geometry of the music the way they do when they can actually see what is happening. The Flute Playing Machine is not simply a way of producing this music, it is an integral part of the music. As with all the most successful collaborations, one can not separate the contributions of the collaborators without losing something important. Accessed 16.05.2008 from