Dancing in the Dark, by Samuel Pellman

Dancing in the Dark

a composition of digital sounds
in two channels

duration - 5'48"
Click to hear an audio clip (duration: 1'06"): mp3 File (1 MB)


Dancing in the Dark  was inspired by a Hubble Space Telescope image of the planet Pluto and its relatively large satellite, Charon. The movement consists of a set of nine variations that feature a variety of regular rhythmic and timbral patterns. The result is set of "channels" of timbral continuities that operate at a deeper layer of the structure. Occasionally, as in variations 2 and 8, the coexistence of these timbral channels results in an aural illusion, an ambiguity of foreground and middleground, that is quite similar to such well-known visual illusions as those seen in Escher drawings.

The pitches for the piece are those found in a just scale based on twenty equal divisions of a perfect fifth, with middle-C as the tonic. Each of these divisions is slightly larger than an interval of 35 cents, and the result is very similar to Wendy Carlos's gamma tuning. A special property of this scale is that it can be used to form very pure major and minor thirds, and so the tertian harmonies used in this piece are therefore quite clear and beautiful.


This piece was composed in the Studio for Contemporary Music at Hamilton College, in Clinton, New York. Most of the sounds were generated on a pair of Yamaha TX802 tone modules, programmed with FM instruments designed by the composer. Sampled instruments on a Kurzweil K2500RS were used to layer a few of the FM instruments and to provide an occasional, faint drone or countermelody. A Macintosh Centris 650 was the central component of the studio setup. Software used in the design and control of the sounds in this piece includes Opcode's Studio Vision Pro and Galaxy Plus Editors. A MAX patch designed by the composer was used to accomplish the timbral channeling effects. Signal mixing was done on a Yamaha DMP9-16, with external processing by a Lexicon PCM-70. Some overdubbing was accomplished with an Alesis ADAT. The mix down deck for the piece was a Panasonic SV3700 DAT recorder.

Biographical information about the composer can be found here.
There is also a version of this piece known as The Orrery. (An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system.)

In August of 1996 this "music of the spheres" was presented at the International Computer Music Conference in Hong Kong.

Dancing in the Dark  and The Orrery  are published by the Continental Music Press.
copyright 1993, 1998 Samuel Pellman. All Rights Reserved.

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