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The initial inspiration

The story behind Inner Version so far, with details about how the technique was used for each piece.
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Chris Gibbs
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The initial inspiration

Postby Chris Gibbs » Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:45 pm

In this post I'll describe the story which led to the development of the composition technique and also the birth of the Inner Version project.

Searching the web for musical theory

One day in early January 2009 I was randomly browsing the web for information on musical theory, and stumbled on the following section of a Wikipedia page: ... d_melodies
(N.B. The section on the page still seems to be unchanged since then, but please don't edit it to include any of the information on this forum yet!)

I was broadly familiar with both pieces, but had no idea they were so closely connected, so I printed out a copy of the sheet music of the Rachmaninoff variation and compared this to the Paganini original on my piano. At this point I noticed how wildy different in mood the inversions were and wondered what the technique would sound like on other pieces, especially applied to more modern music.

The first inversion attempts

The main melody of the Rachmaninoff vs Paganini example was reasonably straightforward to invert, with a simple repeating rhythm, so I decided to look for something similar to try out myself. The first piece that sprang to mind was the song No Suprises by Radiohead and I attempted to invert the high guitar melody that appears in the introduction. Out of this came a beautiful sombre melody that instantly drew me in, and also sounded new yet somehow familiar at the same time.

Spurred on by this success, I then tried another Radiohead song, this time the track Street Spirit (Fade Out). The gloomy and desperate acoustic guitar riff became this gorgeous melody that seemed to float away and would later form the introduction of my piece "Cambric Clouds". I also noticed the almost opposite moods of the two versions for the song, plus the melancholy of the inversion of No Surprises versus the uplifting original, and I began to wonder if this inversion of the mood was to become a regular pattern.

Then I tried doing some inversions on a variety of songs in different genres, such as Happy Birthday, Moon River, Stairway to Heaven, Walking in the Air and Yesterday, with some interesting results. Since pretty much every song I had tried to invert so far had at least sounded promising, I really started to think I was onto something big and started to plan a musical project around the idea. After searching the web for some time, I also realised that the chromatic inversion technique used for the experiments seemed to have been hardly used - certainly without many famous examples - so my project would be unique. (Rachmaninoff vs Paganini is still the only well-known example I've found after two years of searching)

The name and logo

I came up a few ideas for project names related to the word "inversion". One of the first names to come up was the actual final name "Inner Version", although at one point I was debating whether to use "Inner Versions", to reflect that the project would consist of a large number of inversions. In the end decided that it would be too close to the name of Stevie Wonder's album "Innervisions", so went with the singular form instead. The IV logo was based on an idea by a friend and further developed by myself over the next few weeks. The final logo was designed to hint at the inversion technique: try taking a negative image of it in a graphics editing program and see what you get ;)

An idea for an album

Since the Radiohead inversions sounded so promising, one of my initial ideas was to do an album based purely on their album OK Computer, with one piano piece per song. However, I tried inverting some of the other tunes on the album, and whilst interesting, they didn't immediately jump out as much as the inversions of No Surprises and Street Spirit, so I decided to leave that idea on hold for the time being. (N.B. No Surprises still remains the only song from OK Computer that I've used, however I still believe some of the other tracks such as Karma Police, Lucky, Exit Music & Paranoid Android have some great potential inversion material that you might want to try)

It was until a couple of weeks later, when I had the idea of combining several inversions into one piece (i.e. inversion synthesis), that finally I realised I had a viable technique for creating a series of complete pieces, and the composition of my debut album "Piano Sketches" could get under way...

Continue to the story behind Piano Sketches
Chris Gibbs (Inner Version)
Musician/Programmer at Inner Version Ltd

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