Long Aeolian Piano

1st installation: Holownia-Hansen Farm, Jolicure, N.B., 1984

This piece was realised in collaboration with Thaddeus Holownia. An old upright piano is placed outdoors in a field (Jolicure, New Brunswick, 1984), in a public park (Edmonton, Alberta, 1986), and on top of a mountain (St. John's, Newfoundland, 1988). Long piano wires (20 meters to 50 meters) are strung through the piano soundboard and anchored to peg boards at the other ends of the strings. The strings are oriented at 90 degrees to the prevailing wind, so that aeolian tones are excited in the strings. These tones are acoustically amplified through contact to the piano soundboard. Because of the long length of the strings, the predominant tones are those between the 20th to 100th harmonic partial (usually in the 400 Hz. to 2000 Hz. range) of the string's fundamental frequency. Some strings vibrate multiphonically, that is, two or more frequencies are simultaneously excited on a single string. Mysterious low frequency tones (100 Hz. and lower) have also been excited in the strings in the seeming absence of wind. In some cases, in a quiet soundscape, the aeolian tones can be heard up to 700 meters away, without any electronic amplification.

©Gordon Monahan 1984

photos by Thaddeus Holownia, Gay Hansen, Don Wherry