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the glass hand (ART 1014, 1996)

by John Bischoff

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Surface 11 03:05
Surface 5 03:04
Surface 2 03:08
Drift 12:55



Most of the pieces on the CD share a common origin. In 1989 I began creating a number of software tools using the language HMSL which enabled me to randomly search for sonic textures on a MIDI synthesizer, to save and recall those that I liked, and to execute transformations from one texture to the next. The primary synthesizer I used in developing these tools was a Yamaha TX81Z tone module. After a few years I also incorporated a Peavey DPM-V3 in a similar fashion. The main differences between the pieces composed with these tools are the unique set of textures found for each piece, the computer program I composed which defines the structure within which those textures are recalled, and the role of a solo performer who interacts with the operation of the program usually by playing a MIDI keyboard.

My early work on the Yamaha was inspired in part by the startling sounds that my friend and fellow composer Tim Perkis was getting out of his TX at the time. I also hoped to find a way to get beyond the feeling of “notes” in MIDI-based music, to gain some of the flexibility of my earlier, non-MIDI computer music in these newer instruments. As in my earlier music, I was hoping to find new attributes in the physical response of these systems that would support and enhance the electronic nature of my music. The musical flow of these pieces is, in essence, built around sonic properties discovered in these MIDI devices and, as such is derived from the electronic system itself.

I picture a musical soul as a large, circular room with windows. Each window opens onto its own landscape which recedes into the distance. The number of windows is finite but each landscape appears infinite. Each landscape is unique in its detail and special in its relevance. One’s imagination can walk out onto these landscapes and notice new features or catch different perspectives on each excursion, thereby transforming the landscape a little bit in the process. Viewed from inside the room, each window represents a particular breakthrough, a vista that at one time was unknown and unforeseen. The addition of each window permanently augments the soul. This work can never be undone.


released May 26, 1996

All pieces were generated “live” and were recorded in one pass with no overdubbing.

HMSL, which stands for Hierarchical Music Specification Language, is a Forth-based computer language that was created especially for composing and performing experimental music. It was written and developed by David Rosenboom, Larry Polansky, and Phil Burk at the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College in Oakland, California.

Thanks to K. Atchley, Chris Brown, Jim Horton, Evangel King, Nick Peck, Tim Perkis, and the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College.

Design by Michael Sumner


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Artifact Recordings San Francisco, California

ARTIFACT RECORDINGS is a project of Ubu, Incorporated, an artist-run, non-profit organization supporting experimental and electronic music based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our download and compact disk series is dedicated to representing a living experimental music tradition that continues to thrive in the cracks between the commercial, academic and classical music establishments. ... more

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