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Wednesday
Mar062013

Piano piece 1

Over the last 3 years I have collaborated on a number of occassions with Llangollen based photographer, film maker and visual wizard Andrew Gale.  In May 2012 we situated a piano in the middle of a field up a hill near Vivod on the outskirts of Llangollen.  I tuned the piano as well as I could using a computer based tuning program and an online tutorial on equal temperament (that I mostly ignored) and started to play.  I have at this point in time been playing this piano for 10 months and Andrew has been filming the "performance". 

The piano has stood in that field through all weather; The constant rain of June 2012, brief periods of sun, hard frosts and the crazy snow blizzards of January 2013.  We obviously have not sat in the filed for all of that time. We have instead visited the piano at regular intervals.  Andrew to film it and myself to “play” it as it battles the elements and inevitably, like every object does,  decomposes and withers.  Eventually it will die.  Eventually I will not be able to get anything from it at all.  It will be spent.

Every time I “play” the piano, because of environmental factors like moisture and temperature, it is a different instrument.  Its tuning has altered dramatically, its mechanism has seized and visually it looks more haggard. Its veneer has gone mouldy, flaked and detached .  The internal hammer mechanism seized fairly early on in the project (mostly due to the level of precipitation in June) and in order to be able to get some sort of musical sound from the piano, the mechanism had to be removed giving me access to the strings.  This effectively has meant re-learning the instrument from scratch playing it as a plucked or hammered instrument kind of like a harp, guitar, dulcimer hybrid.  

Every time I play the instrument I am having to improvise with what it gives me. As it becomes more atonal and moves further away from its 12 note per octave western tuning I personally feel it is is giving me more.  

There are two other pieces involving pianos that I am currently working on.  More images and blogs to come.