New Visions for Farfisa
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Read about his performances in the January, 1989 issue of Keyboard Magazine

Geoff Alexander's 'New Visions for the Farfisa Organ' is a CD containing three electronic works for the instrument.  This CD is out of distribution. I intend on putting the contents of the CD on the Internet in the near future.

The CD consists of three compositions: 

bulletTerre Inconnue (For One and Two Organs, and SPX-90 Effects Processor) (19:00)
bulletSonata For Solo Organ (15:00)
bulletThrenody For Liberace (For Three Organs) (3:40)

Notes to the compositions are as follows:

Terre Inconnue (For One and Two Organs, and SPX-90 Effects Processor)

Terre Inconnue was written to extend the boundaries of electronic material already composed for the specific characteristics of the Farfisa VIP-500 organ. Not only do I feel that I have utilized many of the usually untapped resources of the VIP-500, but in doing so have realized the great advantage of using an effects processor as varied as the Yamaha SPX-90 to make the Farfisa a truly unique electronic instrument. Indeed, the SPX-90 became almost an instrument in itself, and gave the Farfisa the "hard edge" that I'd been looking for in this piece.

Movement One is written for two Farfisa organs, each moving up the scale chromatically independent of the other, and each utilizing different sound alteration modules. This independence is established by the ending of the movement, indicated only by a mutually agreed upon setting of a numerical musical counter. Get up the scale chromatically by all means, yes, but make damn well sure it is finished by the time the counter reaches the final number. As in all my pieces, I place a real value on dynamics... as the higher notes on the scale are accessed, more stops are added on the Farfisa, pushing the volume to an almost unbearable limit. "Terre Inconnue" was of course meant to be played at a high volume to take full advantage of the powerful sonorities. Like the "Sonata for Solo Organ", from my previous cassette "Canódromo", which destroyed a beautiful pair of AR-7 speakers I had for years, this piece nearly destroyed my eardrums. During the mixing of the piece I experienced a constant ringing that lasted for hours after the last mix...all this for the sake of electronic music, ladies and gentlemen!

Movement Two is unusual in that it features only one note, altered by wave adjustment as well as incremental stop additions, and static-to-tremolo modification.

Movement Three features the unique "Synthe-slalom" capability of the VIP 500. Although "Sonata for Solo Organ" used this as the opening to one of the movements, it is such an essential part of what makes a Farfisa a Farfisa that it really deserved a movement of its own. Like Movement One, it operates on a sequential basis, building from one note ordinally up to twenty-five consecutive keystrokes.

Movement Four is based on the interaction between the upper manual stops and the rhythm rheostat. The opening sequence theme begins with a count of nine beats, changing to ten as harmonic stops are added. This escalates into the main body of the piece as a solid yet changing cluster of notes gives way to the acceleration of the rhythm to the point of chaos. After the crescendo, signaled by three sets of long and short chords, Movement Four ends the entire work with three clusters of three notes in a recapitulation and reorganization of the nine beats beginning the final movement.

Note: Geoff has written extensive notes on the instrumental challenges in playing the Farfisa, which are not included on the CD. They can be read here.

Sonata For Solo Organ

I Allegro Non Troppo
II Kayenta
III Fantasie Electroníque
IV Pantheon de Janáček

The Sonata was written in tribute to the Farfisa Organ, an instrument which has not been given its due as a precursor to the modern electronic keyboards of today, and whose rhythmic and timbral possibilities have never been completely explored. It is constructed around a matrix of stops and chord patterns, which allows enough freedom for the performer to place his/her stamp of individuality on the piece. Respect for the spontaneous composer has always been apparent in my music; I love playing a piece I've written previously because of the nuances I hear for the first time, many of which are due to the acoustical nature of the given performance space. While retaining its essential structure, the Sonata leaves room for these important factors to play a role in the music.

The 'Allegro' is based on an introduction, theme and variations in D minor.  'Kayenta' derives much of its feeling from a cold, stark morning on the desert floor, searching the purple windswept mountains for the searing orange glow of the horizon, forging heat and dust. 'Fantasie Electoníque) displays the joy that any human would experience in having a powerful, loud electronic keyboard of his or her own, with all the time in the world in which to play it. I might note that In live performances, I drive this up to the far reaches of the treble spectrum, creating an intensity which, combined with the extreme volume required for this movement really backs people away from the stage… The Sonata finishes with a salute to an influential composer, ending in a strange rhythm that he would have insisted on playing himself. I think.


Threnody For Liberace (For Three Organs): I don't think Liberace was a great musical influence on anybody, really, but he was possibly the most entertaining human being of our era. Who else would have entitled a chapter in one of his books, "Marriage, Dogs, and Being Myself"? Would anyone else have gotten a "particular thrill" out of acting as a chauffeur to his maid and butler, driving them to the grocery store, and having people strain to see the "famous people" in the back, and ignoring the driver? Would anyone else have come close to death by asphyxiation due to an excess amount of dry cleaning fluid left accidentally in a full-length sable coat? I really miss him, and I think the world will as well, for we have so few people who take delight in outrageousness for the sake of making the world a happier place.

The dirge-like opening is played by one organ, stating the main theme, joined soon by the other two, overlapping in themes, leading eventually to a glorious cacophony. I imagine the open casket, surrounded only by candles and three organ players, dressed in suits of mourning, transparent where their hands and faces ought to be. They start their threnody slowly in reverence, but begin to battle with notes, as if by sheer power alone they can send Liberace's soul and body through the ceiling and roof to the great beyond. I'm reminded of that famous painting in the church of Santo Tomé, the sad knights lifting the body of Count Orgáz to heaven, so serene and ponderous, yet already starting to take flight. Our knights are faceless players in the night, ferrying Liberace to his next station with our sad, fond farewell. Played by three Farfisa VIP 500 organs. 

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