Pianos wired

John Barton: Works for piano and electronics

Michael Kieran Harvey, works for piano and electronics, THNMF13

Michael Kieran Harvey, works for piano and electronics, THNMF13

Michael Kieran Harvey, works for piano and electronics, THNMF13

In the International Computer Music Conference’s second concert’s works for piano with live electronics, pianist Michael Kieran Harvey attacked each work with inimitable energy and precision.

Takayuki Rai’s Discrete Transfer extends the piano beyond its usual gestures with live electronics, utilising a fragmented musical language that often resembles the piano works of Iannis Xenakis. Robert Seaback’s seed.signal. for piano and live electronics presents a Varèse-esque montage of sound objects both on the piano and via electronics, creating a brooding atmosphere with dark, rich chords interrupted by electrical ‘shocks.’

Stuart James, Aaron Wyatt, Tristen Parr performing Daniel Mayer's Lokale Orbit/Trio 1 for violin, cello, piano and electronics, THNMF13

Stuart James, Aaron Wyatt, Tristen Parr performing Daniel Mayer’s Lokale Orbit/Trio 1 for violin, cello, piano and electronics, THNMF13

Stuart James, Aaron Wyatt, Tristen Parr performing Daniel Mayer’s Lokale Orbit/Trio 1 for violin, cello, piano and electronics, THNMF13

Austrian-born Daniel Mayer’s Lokale Orbit/Trio 1 for violin, cello, piano and electronics changed the tone of the evening. Utilising hand-muted strings inside the piano, Mayer created a repeating pattern from which his entire piece was built. Using electronic reverberations from the string instruments, Mayer then generated an acousmatic soundscape, the sounds of the instruments becoming unrecognisable in their processed forms.

With reference to Helmut Lachenmann’s seminal composition Guero, Anthony Lyons’ Trace Elements I/II for piano and electronics began with the keys themselves as its point of departure. Electronically amplifying and reverberating the sound of Harvey’s hands running over the keys while he played a simple, yet fragmented, melodic line, Trace Elements I demonstrates that the piano is indeed a percussion instrument. Trace Elements II moved in a different direction, focussing on a simple harmonic triad and using microphones to resonate its partials through the theatre. After a very creative first movement, the second lacked the same creative drive, falling short on engagement and experimentation.

After the piano works, Julien-Robert Legault Salvail’s Fit into the crowd for bass clarinet and video took as its point of departure video and audio of a large crowd. As the clarinettist played behind the screen, the video faded so that she appeared to emerge from the crowd. Engaging in a debate with the chaotic voices of the crowd, the bass clarinet became a voice of expression, exposing the barrier between public and private and negotiating questions of individualisation in a world where the voice of the self can so easily become lost.

16 August 2013