Chopin ÉtudesWhen I started making animated graphical scores in the mid-1980s, I was attracted to the études (studies)
of Frédéric Chopin; more than any music I'd experimented with, they seemed to deal in "pure pattern."
I'd read Douglas Hofstadter's April, 1982 Metamagical Themas column "Pattern, Poetry, and Power
in the Music of Frédéric Chopin" in Scientific American a few years before; it opened with this figure:
FIGURE 9-1. The opening bars of the right hand of Etude Op. 25, No. 11, by Frédéric Chopin,
represented graphically. Underneath it and aligned with it is the conventional notation. [Com-
puter graphics by Donald Byrd and the author. Music notation printed by SMUT music-printing
system, developed by Donald Byrd at Indiana University.]
Did that image affect me subconsciously? I don't know ...
In 1989, Edward Tufte persuaded me to produce a program of my animations and generously helped me
promote and sell the result (the 1990 Demonstration Reel). The program included a Chopin étude, as did
the second program (the 1996 Demonstration Reel; these two programs were later re-released as the
Music Animation Machine DVD). Around that time, I decided to do animations of all the Chopin études.
It was many years before that idea reached fruition, though. I'd done animations of several of the études,
and when YouTube opened its doors, a Chopin étude was among the pieces I uploaded the first day, but
my output remained at a trickle for many years. However, in the summer of 2015 I turned on the steam,
and by March, 2016, I was nearly finished. There were several études which were a little too hard for me
to perform (even with the conductor program, which I'd been using for most of the recordings), and I
might have stalled again, but I fortunately discovered the recordings of Paul Barton, who generously
let me use them, and on May 1, 2016, the set was complete (this playlist includes two of the reworkings
of Chopin's études by Leopold Godowsky).
The final animation of opus 25 no. 11 looks a little different than this (watch it here).
For more background on the Music Animation Machine project, see this page.