Dust and Dissection

Now that myself and the other composers are beginning to develop concepts for our pieces the architects thought it was wise to stop working as one large group and subdivide ourselves. Each composer has been assigned a couple of architects to work with to help them realise their ideas, I will be working with Hugh Armstrong, Alex Farr and Chencheng Xie. This seems to be a very effective way of progressing with this project as it will allow us to focus our attention on specific tasks rather than concerning ourselves with what the rest of the group is doing. Having proposed my conceptual ideas for the project to my group  (see Modernism, Pianos and Nothingness) they have also expressed an interest in utilising abandoned spaces. Several potential venues have been discussed, our favourite being Halam Towers (see image below) however we are unsure as to whether we will be able to gain access to the building as our initial research suggests that it is due to be demolished soon. If we are unable to get access to Hallam Towers then we will look to use a space within the Park Hill Estate which we should be able to get access to.

Hallam Towers

Hallam Towers Р© Terry Robinson, licensed for reuse under Creative Commons

This week we got our hands on some pianos for the first time. At first we were all being very careful with the pianos as it felt almost sacrilegious to damage them in any way. But, soon we were ripping parts out left, right and centre in search of any new and interesting sounds that these pianos could make. We have been experimenting extensively with different methods of playing the pianos, a particular highlight has been whipping the strings with wire to create thunder like clashes. I was immediately drawn to the older of the two pianos, this piano sounds fantastic, years of dust and grime stuck to the strings have shaped the timbre of the piano giving it an otherworldly sound. After some (not so) careful tugging at the insides – which are swelled with damp after years of neglect – it became apparent that the whole hammer mechanism could be easily removed, providing access to the strings. Removing the hammers also removed the dampeners from the piano thus allowing the piano to sustain without the need to hold down the pedal.

Although I am not entirely sure how I intend to utilise the piano in this piece yet, working with the piano has generated some interesting ideas. I am currently researching into utilising motors to allow the piano ‘play’ itself, the easy access to the strings would mean that the motors could interact with the strings directly rather than having to press down keys. Unfortunately this piano is the heaviest of the two and this may cause some issues in the future if we are trying to navigate it across difficult terrain (such as the building site surrounding Hallam Towers). But, now that I have an understanding of what I can do with the piano it is time for me to return to my original conceptual ideas and begin working these into a coherent piece of music. Whilst I work on this the architects are going to attempt to get us access to Hallam Towers, they have already found out who owns the site and should be making contact with the company in the next few days. Hopefully we hear back from them soon.



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