This Piano Thing
1st performance: New Music Vancouver, 1989
Work for solo, amplified, prepared piano in four movements.
This Piano Thing is a response to questions raised by my composition Piano Mechanics. These questions deal both with an evolution of piano technique and a redefinition of the piano as a machine for the synthesis of sound.
When Piano Mechanics is performed in concert, the unusual acoustical effects emerging from a solo unamplified and unaltered piano form an impression to the audience that some trickery is taking place. At almost every performance of this piece, I have had audience members approach me after the concert to see what processing equipment I’m using, or to look for preparations inside the piano. Of course, no such equipment or preparations are used in Piano Mechanics. This gave me the idea to compose a piece for the antithesis of this perceptual paradox, a piece for amplified prepared piano.
In This Piano Thing, seventy-three notes of the piano are prepared using materials of the traditional preparation repertoire: bolts, screws, broken chopsticks, rubber, weather-stripping, vibrating nuts and washers. In some instances, medium-size (6 mm x 60 mm) eyebolts are placed in the strings of adjacent whole tones so that their 'eyes' are barely touching. When either of these notes are played, a sustained jingling takes place, creating a kind of multi-level mechanical reverb-feedback system, in that a string attack induces further attacks between the eyebolts with the resulting sustained sounds feeding back through the strings to the soundboard.
©Gordon Monahan 1989