The Seventh Voyage

4/3/12 for piano and laptop

Composer’s note

The title of this piece is taken from Stanisław Lem’s 1971 science fiction comedy classic ‘The Star Diaries’. In ‘The Seventh Voyage’ the hero of the stories, hapless cosmonaut Ijon Tichy, finds his rocket trapped in a loop of time. His attempts to repair the ship’s rudder are continually frustrated by the appearance of younger and older copies of himself:

“Just a minute,” I replied, remaining on the floor. “Today is Tuesday. Now if you are the Wednesday me, and if by that time on Wednesday the rudder still hasn’t been fixed, then it follows that something will prevent us from fixing it, since otherwise you, on Wednesday, would not now, on Tuesday, be asking me to help you fix it. Wouldn’t it be best, then, for us not to risk going outside?”

“Nonsense!” he exclaimed. “Look, I’m the Wednesday me and you’re the Tuesday me, and as for the rocket, well, my guess is that its existence is patched, which means that in places it’s Tuesday, in places Wednesday, and here and there perhaps there’s even a bit of Thursday. Time has simply become shuffled up in passing through these vortices, but why should that concern us, when together we are two and therefore have a chance to fix the rudder?!”

from Stanisław Lem ‘The Star Diaries’ – Chapter 1 ‘The Seventh Voyage’

The Seventh Voyage for piano and laptop was developed in collaboration with and is dedicated to pianist Silviya Mihaylova.

Performer’s note by Silviya Mihaylova

The Seventh Voyage by J. Simon van der Walt is a theatrical piece for pianist, two grand pianos and a laptop. Every element of the story on which the piece is based can be found on the stage: There is The Tuesday Me (the pianist performing on grand piano 1), The Wednesday Me (the pianist performing on grand piano 2) and The Space Rocket (the laptop). The hero, Ijon Tichy, found himself in a broken space rocket, which is trapped in a time loop. He tries to fix it, without success. Representing this, the music on the first grand piano is always connected to the laptop, repeating the same musical idea, with almost minimalistic sound, fighting with the sounds of the laptop, trying constantly to ‘fix it’. The sound coming from the second grand piano is completely different – acoustic, pure, lyrical and always in contrast with piano one, but still holding the same musical ideas.

And if this doesn’t sound special enough the sounds of the laptop are live generated, which means that the laptop ‘improvises’, performing along the pianist, making each and every performance unique.


First performance by Silviya Mihaylova at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland 12 March 2012. Second performance by Silviya at the Numti Festival, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, 13 July 2012.

Duration ~12′