Disklavier Project

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Concert in Utrecht with the Disklavier of the Conlon Foundation in January 2016

During the past year I had the chance to create a piece for Yamaha Disklavier.

My first encounter with this instrument was in a concert for Yamaha Disklavier (and the Peter Ablinger automatic piano) at the Darmstadt Internationale Ferienkurse 2014. There I saw and heard a variety of uses for this automated instrument in combination with electronics, speaker feedback, harp pedals, etc. Intrigued by this memorable concert, I applied to an opportunity to work with the Disklavier owned by the Conlon Foundation in the Netherlands a couple of months later. After an introductory workshop on the basic mechanics, electronic connections, and example works by Robert van Heumen (Conlon Foundation board member), I was set free to begin exploring. The challenge to myself was to create a work combining Disklavier with a field recording of an escalator, thus continuing my current music research, and to find what this musical machine could offer.

Pedals and keys move on their own.

There was quite a bit to learn for me from the technical side of things: how to connect the Disklavier (with MIDI cables) to the soundcard, soundcard to the computer; what MIDI channel number to use in the software; how to send the right control information to move the pedals, MIDI notes to play actual notes, and poly pressure information to depress the keys silently. Furthermore, I had used Logic Pro for electroacoustic projects, but never to control a MIDI instrument. I made many trips to the Muziekhuis Utrecht to physically test things out with the instrument, especially because I was creating a piece where the visual choreography was so important. The incidental sounds of moving pedals, shifting hammers, and depressed keys (not merely the normal piano notes) are an important character of the piece as well. Studio time with the Disklavier was invaluable. (Later I learned how to edit, compose, and prepare more in the program itself as I gained competency with Logic and experience with the instrument.)

Escalator for Yamaha Disklavier and field recording (2015) involves a fairly simple setup: MIDI out cable from the soundcard into the Disklavier to make the pedals and keys move, two palm-sized JBL Clip speakers placed inside the piano to play the field recording also using the resonance of the piano. For all audience members to enjoy the visual aspect, I arranged for a live camera feed of the front (pedals and keyboard) to be projected on a screen.

The premiere of the 11:30 minute piece was on January 17, 2016 in a Gaudeamus Session in Muziekhuis Utrecht.

(Video coming soon!)

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