Piano Nets

Denis Smalley

Piano Nets

  • Denis Smalley
  • Year of composition: 1990, 91
  • Duration: 17:57
  • Instrumentation: piano and stereo fixed medium
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média
  • Commission: SAN with support from the Arts Council of Great Britain
  • ISWC: T0102014210

To Philip Mead

Piano Nets is in three movements which have common piano material but are different in style, mainly due to the influence of the changing electroacoustic environment. The piano writing revolves around a variety of chord-flavors and sonorities which can be heard across all movements — for example: chords of thirds, of fourths and whole-tone chords. Certain harmonies provide home bases which are constantly returned to, and the ‘nets’ in the title express the idea of these networks of chords and a certain feeling of confinement created by them. Also net-like is the fact that the piano is trapped almost entirely in a chordal style. Such a restriction enables a concentrated exploration of subtle blendings of piano and electroacoustic sounds. The relations between piano and electroacoustic sounds vary — they can be mutually decorating or supporting; they can act in a cause and effect manner; they collaborate in attacking events and resonance colourings; the electroacoustic sounds can sound as if emanating from inside the piano’s sound, or conversely (towards the end) they can surround the piano whose chords swing around in a clangorous interior.


Piano Nets was realized in the Electroacoustic Music Studio of the University of East Anglia in Norwich (UK). The electroacoustic material was mostly created during a research period at Ircam in Paris (France) in 1989 — a stay funded by a bursary from the Arts Council of Great Britain; other material was borrowed from previous pieces. Piano Nets was premiered by pianist Philip Mead at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival (UK) on October 13, 1990. Its third movement was subsequently revised. Piano Nets was commissioned by the Sonic Arts Network (SAN) with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain.


  • October 13, 1990, Philip Mead, piano • Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Music Centre — University of East Anglia, Norwich (England, UK)


  • 1989, Ircam, Paris (France)



  • 1991, Norwich (England, UK)