"Final Autumn" by Samuel Pellman

Final Autumn

for viola, prepared piano, and digital instruments

duration - 8' 51"
Click to hear a 14 second audio clip from the beginning of the piece: ( mp3 File, 256K)
or a 26 second audio clip of a rhapsodic passage a couple of minutes into the work: ( mp3 File, 448K)
or a 12 second audio clip just a bit further into the work: ( mp3 File, 224K).
Here's a 15 second audio clip from the ending: ( WAV File, 1.2M) or ( mp3 File, 256K)

These audio clips are taken from a recording made at the first Twin Valley Digital Music Festival by Patricia Wells (viola), Duane Heller (prepared piano), and Samuel Pellman (digital instruments).


The title of this work is also that of a poem by the American poet Josephine W. Johnson (b. 1910). Sub-titles of sections of the piece are also taken from lines of the poem:
"blooded rising of the moon"
"long continuous lightning in the north"
"having ravaged earth's beauty"
"the far wasp-whispering of the flames to come"
"the clean sound of the flame"
"the fierce increasing sound of iron cities' great volcanic death"
"more heat and glory than had ever..."
"...come into the spare and cautious veins of life"
"night of a great and unreturning day"
"the long ritual of life brought to a close"
"with still the face of God unseen"
The apocalyptic imagery of the poem provides the inspiration for the timbral and textural ideas shared by the three performers [NOTE: If the pre-recorded version of the electronic sounds is used in performance, please add here the following parenthetical expression: "(including as one of the performers the track of electronic sounds)"]. The dramatic design of the composition is fixed, but the details of the performance are to some degree the result of close improvisation.

Prior to performance the piano is "prepared" by the insertion of wooden pegs between the strings of the notes in the middle range of the instrument. The digital sounds include samples of prepared piano sounds, samples of other sounds produced inside a piano, and digitally synthesized timbres.

The work was composed on commission by the violist Patricia Heller and the pianist/composer Duane Heller.


The electronic sounds in Final Autumn were produced by a Yamaha TX416 module and an ensoniq mirage sound sampler. Digital delay and other effects were provided by a Yamaha DMP11 digital mixer. These devices were placed under the control of sequencer software developed by Opcode Systems, Inc. for the Macintosh computer.

Due to the obsolescence of much of this equipment (and software), it is no longer feasible to include live digital sounds in performance. However, the digital sounds have been recorded on a compact disc that can be played back in accompaniment to the performance of a live violist and pianist. Contact the composer for a copy of the CD if you would like to perform this work.

This piece was composed in the Studio for Contemporary Music at Hamilton College, in Clinton, New York.

Biographical information about the composer can be found here.
Final Autumn is published by the Continental Music Press.
copyright 1988 Samuel Pellman. All Rights Reserved.
To obtain performance materials or for further information, contact: