Composer’s program notes


Goyboys was composed in my home studio in October 1982 using the Four Play system and realized in the electronic music studios of the Canberra School of Music using a Fairlight computer music instrument. The piece was originally written for flute, trombone, piano, marimba and 4-channel tape but now exists in four versions: a version for tape alone; a version for instruments and tape; and multimedia versions for slides and tape, or slides, instruments and tape. For the multimedia versions the accompanying slide sequence was made by the Australian artist Tim Brook. Many of the slides originated from snapshots taken by my mother and Tim’s mother of their precious sons in childhood. The taped sounds were digitally recorded off an old and scratched ten-inch record of Max Reichardt singing Yiddish folk tunes as accompanied at the piano by Rudolph Spira.

score for Goyboys


All of the pitches and rhythms in Goyboys were developed from the opening phrase of Yesterday by the Beatles. The Four Play system, a microcomputer-based composition program written by me, was used to organize and print a work score which was then interpreted to produce the final score. This portion of the system utilized three compositional techniques:

  1. serial techniques were used to control the order of the pitch and rhythmic sequences
  2. stochastic techniques were used to control the octave range of the notes, the likelihood of an instrument playing or not playing, the order in which the instruments chose from a varying supply of notes and, after these notes were sorted into their respective octaves, the order used by an instrument to search through the octaves for an available note
  3. a splitting technique was used where the total number of beats, attacks and notes were split into 2 quantities using 2 percentages, then 3 quantities using 3 percentages, then 4 quantities using 4 percentages, and then quantities using percentages until 120 quantities resulted for each parameter.

These data, along with those produced using the other techniques, were then combined to create a work score file with 120 measures which was then printed using a graphic printer. The work score version of Goyboys has 3456 beats, 1560 attacks, and 1560 notes. Its pitch row is D-C-E-FN-G#-R-B-C-AB-G-F-GM-C* and its rhythmic row is 2:2:12:4:2:2:2:2:2:2:3:1:12.

The interpretation of the work score is considered the final step in this composition system and in Goyboys this involved methods that occasionally distorted the output from the computer-aided portion of the system. These methods included cutting the work score to displace entry points of the instruments, snapping voice lines between the four instruments, and interpreting the same voice line to produce both the taped and live parts. Often the work score was used with little or no variation in the final score. At the interpretive stage, little concern was given to maintaining the integrity of the computer-generated data.


The source materials for Goyboys are intended to have a certain political significance. In Yiddish, the word goy is a derogatory term used to describe a non-Jew and the title Goyboys refers to an introspective look at Tim’s upbringing and my own. The Beatles’ song Yesterday was chosen because it’s a good example of western goyish music. The number 13, taken from the number of notes in the opening phrase of this song, has significance in judaism and has been used to control various structural aspects of Goyboys.

Most of the word and sound fragments from the Max Reichardt record were chosen because they sounded Yiddish—I haven’t a clue to the meaning of many of them. This piece, in general, was influenced most directly by the writings of Isaac Singer and Chaim Potok. Though My name is Asher Lev by Potok, was read a few weeks after the piece was begun, in many respects it complements the painting called the Brooklyn Crucifixion described in this book.

Dan Senn Tim Brook