Hanging in the Balance

for two pianos, resonating objects and live electronics

Colin Riley

Logged-in user discounts applied
Log in to get discounts (now or at checkout)
Ask us about multi-copy choral discounts


for two pianos, resonating objects and live electronics

Ask about this work
Composer Colin Riley
Year of Composition 2015
Duration ca.20'
Categories (all composers)
Catalogue ID ce-cr1hitb1


1. Ritual Groove

2. Brake, Tackle and Bowl

3. A Scent of an Ending

Having observed snare drums rattling in time with my piano playing in many a practice room, I realised that here was something I could harness to provide ‘accompaniments-with-a-difference’ for piece for solo instrument. Hanging In The Balance is the first of a set of pieces which explores bringing objects to life by stimulating them to resonating along with the music played by the soloist.

The piano music is sent via transducers to the skins and working parts of various instruments placed around the stage and made to buzz, rattle and shake. The four instruments for this piece are a bass drum, a snare drum, a hi-hat and a zither. This sets in motion a chain reaction of music events whereby each sound is in turn developed further away from the original source. The final stage is through electronic manipulation.

The whole piece sets in place a sensitive balance of all its disparate parts. The scored material allows space for the resonating of the four percussion instruments, which also leaves room for sonic manipulation. It explores sounds that are at the edges; broken sounds, extremely quiet sounds (amplified), mangled sonics, prepared piano, muffled notes, harmonics, feedback, and electronic shifting into extreme registers. Across it’s three movements, the music explores small fragments of music obsessively making use of transformations through timbre, and ever-shifting arrangements of the key elements.

The realisation of the electronic elements was done using Ableton Live software and with the guidance and patient expertise of James Waterworth (DJ and sonic artist). Hanging in The Balance was commissioned by Kate Halsall as part of her Miniaturised Concertos Project with funds provided by the Arts Council of England.

Hanging In The Balance Documentary from Colin Riley Music Projects on Vimeo.