A Piano Listening To Itself – Chopin Chord

1st installation: Castle Square, Warsaw Autumn Festival, Warsaw, Poland, October 2010

Commissioned by Warsaw Autumn

Six long piano wires are suspended from the tower of the Royal Castle in Warsaw and are connected to a piano positioned in the middle of the square below. At the connecting point high above on the balcony of the tower, audio recordings played into an amplifier are transmitted into the long piano strings using vibrating coils in small motors attached to the wires, which cause the piano strings to vibrate in sympathy with the audio signals. The vibrations in the long piano strings are transmitted down the long piano wires and are amplified by contact to the piano soundboard below. The audio recordings are thus reproduced without any loudspeakers – instead, the motor coils, the long piano wires and soundboard become substitutes for a loudspeaker system.

Audio recordings transmitted into the piano strings consist of note sequences derived from piano compositions by Frederic Chopin. The note sequences were extracted from midi files of Chopin’s piano pieces and ‘recomposed’ using midi software, to form new pieces that were then recorded using a software-based piano. In total, twenty-six ‘recompositions’ were derived from twenty Preludes, two Etudes Opus 10 and 25, the Fantaisie Impromptu Opus 66, one Nocturne Opus 27 Nr. 1, one Polonaise Opus 53, and the first movement of the Sonata, Opus 35.

In addition to the piano sounds vibrating in the wires, whenever the wind blows perpendicular to the piano strings, they vibrate with Aeolian tones, thus adding a spontaneous audio event manifested by natural forces. These Aeolian tones blend with the audio signals or they sometimes drown out the audio signals, which re-emerge once the wind dies down or changes direction.

©Gordon Monahan 2010