Calenture (2 pianos, electric guitar)

For Electric Guitar & Two Pianos


Calenture, commissioned by Double Edge (Edmund Niemann and Nurit Tilles) consists of four distinct movements that combine the techniques of contemporary classical piano with those found in rock and jazz electric guitar playing. Through this fusion, the music delves into the expressive possibilities of the electric guitar and piano duo, exploring both impressionistic tones and compelling rhythms, as they seamlessly blend together through immersive sonic motifs. The first movement draws listeners in with a mesmerizing blend of soft harmonics resonating from within the piano, intertwining with the mellow tones of half-muted guitar pitches. The instruments' rhythmic and tonal similarities create an enigmatic and captivating atmosphere. As the movement progresses, fluttering piano gestures in the mid-register intertwine with ethereal guitar harmonics, further expanding the sonic landscape. In the second movement, one of the pianists switches to hand percussion, providing a rhythmic foundation for fragmented jazz-inspired phrases from the other musicians. The interplay of syncopated piano chords adds depth and energy to the piece. As we transition to the third movement, the piano's relentless rhythms anchor the composition, while the guitar introduces polyrhythmic chordal stabs before soaring into its upper register. Here, the guitar emits bending, sustained moans and haunting squeals, adding a layer of intensity to the ensemble. The fourth movement gracefully unfolds atop a gentle, harmonically static piano accompaniment. Amidst this tranquil backdrop, the other pianist punctuates the arc-like structure with concise statements. Meanwhile, the guitar seamlessly integrates with a series of sustained pitches, heightening the movement's profound sense of tension and darkness. Calenture explores the expressive possibilities of the piano and electric guitar duo, showcasing the duo's technical prowess and their ability to create a unique and captivating musical experience.

Programme Note

Calenture - a disease incident to sailors within the tropics, characterised by a delirium in which, it is said, they fancy the sea to be green fields and desire to leap into it.

"Knowledge kindles calenture in some..." John Donne

Performance Notes


  • Whenever possible, amplification should be used to improve blending with the guitar. The first and last movements would benefit from substantial artificial reverb (c.5 and c.10 seconds respectively). Some experimentation will be required in different acoustical situations, but some reverb (c.2-3 seconds) may be necessary in the second and third movements to effect a balance with the guitar. Speakers should be placed in close proximity to the guitar speakers.
  • In the first movement, both pianists are required to play harmonics inside the piano. Notes to sound as harmonics are indicated with an open circle. The notes to be played on the keyboard are indicated as standard noteheads on the lower staff, and the resultant pitches, indicated as diamond noteheads on the upper staff, are only given at each first occurrence. It may be found convenient to play inside the piano with the left hand, and it is possible to use rubber strips (dowel) instead of the fingers to touch the nodes.

    The following harmonics are called for:
  • The percussion part for the second movement should be played by one of the pianists.
    there are two alternative possibilities for its execution (1) on a single hand drum; (2) on three separate drums. In either case, the drum(s) should be played with the hands and fingers, not with sticks.
  • The distribution of material between left and right hands in the third movement may be modified to suit individual performers.


  • An EBow, volume pedal and effects pedal are required. Ideally, a dual amplifier setup with a stereo effects processor should be used, with a speaker placed near or in front of each piano to obtain an optimum blend between the instruments. A second guitar in dropped-D tuning should be used in the second movement to avoid a break for retuning.
  • In the first movement, the guitar should blend as closely as possible with the pianos, with c.5-8 seconds added reverb. Changes in volume are intended to result from variation in attack, rather than use of the volume pedal. All harmonics are natural and are limited to the first and second octave nodes (however, to effect a cleaner and more controlled sound, second octave harmonics may be played as fifth harmonics on the string above). Allow harmonics to ring on whenever possible.
  • The second movement is in dropped-D tuning. The sound is to be clean, with little or no added reverb.

The following notational conventions are employed:

  • Slurs imply only the first note is to be picked, and subsequent notes are fingered.
  • Slide finger from the first note to the second.
  • Play the first note and then "pull off" the left hand finger, plucking the string and allowing the second note to sound.
  • Instead of picking the notes separately, the pick is swept across the strings.
  • Mordents, in the third movement, are measured, and should be performed as a shake of the wrist, simply moving the fingers down a fret and back up again:
  • The sound should be clean throughout (with chorusing for the chordal passages), except where "effects pedal" is indicated. This indicates a switch to distortion with compression and at least 8 seconds added reverb. The notes sustained whilst the effects pedal is on should sound an octave higher than written.
  • Pitch-bending should be possible as finger-bending, though alternatively a whammy bar may be used. Some of the long sustained notes may need to be 'refreshed', although this should happen as discreetly as possible.
  • The vibrato indicated is intended to simulate the vibrato of a violin, though more exaggerated.
  • In the fourth movement, the very long notes are to be sustained using an EBow (or other string resonator), not with distortion or compression, and faded in and out (to and from absolute silence) using the volume pedal. The sound should be natural and warm, with at least 8 seconds added reverb.

Key Details:

Commissioner: Double Edge – Edmund Niemann & Nurit Tilles with financial support from Creative New Zealand

Instrumentation: Electric Guitar & Two Pianos

Guitar, Piano


Listen Now

Listen Now


No items found.

Purchase this piece

No items found.