Variations on a WINCO Receipt

Cover Art by Ashlyn Gehrett

This piece came about in a really weird way.  I was sitting at the piano messing around with some ideas while my girlfriend and my mother were on the couch across the room making comments about anything and everything.  Eventually, the conversation shifted to post-tonal theory, and my girlfriend ended up suggesting that I play some stuff off of a receipt.  So, I reached into my pockets and pulled out a crumpled-up Safeway receipt and started plunking out notes on the piano.  This, of course, resulted in my girlfriend wanting me to write a composition based off of that idea, and so it happened.

A little explanation about how this works.   Each pitch in western music has a number that corresponds to it in such a way that C is 0, C# is 1, and so on all the way up to Bb being 10, and B being 11.  On a WINCO receipt, unlike any other receipt I’ve seen, this piece of paper not only gives you the price of each item you purchased, but also the serial number, resulting in an over-abundance of numbers to convert to pitches.  Being the systematic person I am, I started at the very top with a can of refried beans, and worked my way down the receipt until the piece was done.  Throughout the piece, you’ll hear various melodies and harmonies based off of things like a loaf of bread, or a head of broccoli (sweetened condensed milk ended up being a main melody in this piece), but you will also hear tonal ideas, like cadences, and entire passages that are diatonic.  Though this seems a little unlikely, I swear that every note, minus the repetitions, was taken strictly in order off of the receipt, and all the compositional aspects you hear were already in the numbers on the receipt.  Who knew that a receipt could be so musical?

Variations on a WINCO Receipt


Score Readable PDF Score of Variations on a WINCO Receipt

Upcoming Concerts

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Past Concerts

Kurt Mehlenbacher, composer  

Date Venue City More
11/17/08 Katzin Concert Hall, Arizona State University School of Music Kurt Mehlenbacher, composer in Tempe [+/-]
07/12/07 Collier House, University of Oregon Kurt Mehlenbacher, composer in Eugene [+/-]
05/02/07 Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon School of Music and Dance Kurt Mehlenbacher, composer in Eugene [+/-]