M-piriform, Op. 10

scoring: soprano, flute, violin, tape
duration: c.10-15'
(curtailed TV version of 3rd movement, 6')
composed : 1968-69


commissioned: BBC (third part) for the television programme 'Workshop'.

published: no

Not available for performance.
Manuscripts (both versions) in Justin Connolly Collection at the Royal College of Music
The tape part is thought to survive in the collection of the late Peter Zinovieff, having been partially released on CD.


Concert version:
10 Feb 1969, QEH
Jane Manning, Pauline Scott, Judith Pierce

TV version:
Documentary "Workshop: The Same Trade as Mozart" with TV version first broadcast BBC Two, 3 August 1969, 20.15
The film includes a complete performance of the TV version, lasting 6 minutes. (The composer speaks over it once.)


An unspecified fragment or fragments of the tape part is on the CD Electronic Calendar - The EMS Tapes.

programme note:

M-PIRIFORM (1968-9)

This introduction and the electronic tape part of the last part of the piece M-piriform was composed and realised by computer at the composers studio. The actual notes played by the violin were decided by the computer and then a recording was made of a modified version of this. The recordings of solo violin provided all the material for the electronic sounds. Nothing was added except treatments, although the final tape is on many tracks and has many parts to it. This itself was divided according to computer programme so that the actual realisation was achieved very quickly - also because of the computer control of the electronic music studio. The original score was very loose in this section and a large degree of freedom was given to the computer as to timing and pitches. This freedom becomes less and less as the piece progresses so that by the last part the structure is fairly rigidly determined by the text. The collaboration between the two composers in the last part of M-piriform was a result of a BBC commission for the television programme 'Workshop'. It was decided that each composer would retain the characteristic compositional decisions that he was used to making.


The text having been chosen by Connolly, both composers were concerned to find a formal analogue to the assumptions behind Beckett's text, which as so often in this writer's work deals with the need for human communication in terms of its failure or impossibility. It seemed to both that the basically circular nature of the text implied a self-prolonging structure of small elements repeated in varied juxtapositions The one musical form which met this requirement was the canon, and both the electronic tracks and th e vocal/instrumental music are derived from the use of canonic procedures. The need for a greater degree of continuity in the electronic domain than would be required for voice or instruments led to the partial suppression of portions of the instrumental canon, which is thus rather like a fretwork screen, which though it has gaps in it nevertheless preserves its essential character of solidity. The continuity of the canon as such cannot be experienced directly by the listener, but the repetitive nature in terms of pitch groupings is always present, if in a somewhat attenuated form. The idea of the canon and its possible realisation in a number of different ways gave rise to the title M-piriform. Readers of Beckett will be reminded of his fondness for giving his solitary characters names beginning with the letter M.



Concert premiere:

TV premiere:

other comments:


Programme note: from original printed programme

James Gardner, Aotearoa/New Zealand - for which many thanks for sharing an original programme and countless other details.