Clarence Barlow was born in 1945 into Calcutta’s English-speaking minority. His first compositions date from 1957. Obtaining a science degree in 1965, he was from 1966-68 active as pianist, conductor and music theory teacher. In 1968 he moved in to Cologne, where he studied electronic music and composition at the Music University with Eimert, Zimmermann and Stockhausen until 1973. His use of a computer as a compositional aid dates from 1971. He has taught composition and computer music in Cologne, Darmstadt, Essen, The Hague, Porto and is currently head of the composition program in the music department of the University of California in Santa Barbara, where he now lives.


My friend and former student Georg Hajdu has done a lot of research into equal temperaments of various kinds, his particular favourite being the one dividing the octave into 17 equal parts. He asked me to contribute to a collection of short pieces by his circle of friends for two interleaved 17- tone-tuned pianos (same white keys, different black keys) I was glad to comply, the only problem being finding the time to do so.

It was only when Amnon Wolman requested me for a contribution to a collection of short pieces he was putting together to celebrate John Pierce’s 80th birthday that I finally got down to it. It took me eight hours on the eve of October 1 1990 with my computer program AUTOBUSK, not counting a couple of days of preparation and postprocessing.

Otodeblu uses only ten of the seventeen tones, all actually available on one of the two pianos. The title is a reference to AUTOBUSK (which generated everything but a very short quote from the song Sixteen Tons), to the month commencing at its completion, to the number of hours it took to compose and to the brand new Octogenarian in whose honour it was written. In any case otodeblu is Japanese, I am told, for ‘coloured blue by sound’ and simply came to me ‘out of the blue’! This is a version for 24-tone tuning split between two pianos and specially arranged for Deborah Richards and Nada Kolundžija.