A—The Prepaid Piano
Selections from the installation The Prepaid Piano,
recorded 21–24 February 2013 during the Unmenschliche
Musik/Inhuman Music exhibition at Haus Der Kulturen Der
Inside a grand piano, five mobile telephones rest directly
on the strings in five different areas of the piano sound-
board. Calling any one of the telephones activates its
vibration alarm, thereby directly ‘playing’ the strings on
which the phone happens to be lying.
Audience members choose which parts of the piano are
‘played’ by calling any of the five telephones’ numbers —
either from their own mobile phones or from the provided
Contact microphones attached to the piano’s soundboard
pick up the sounds of the mobile phones vibrating the piano
strings and pass them on to a voltage-controlled modular
Incoming signals above a pre-determined amplitude
threshold at the synthesizer’s input trigger its recording
and modulation functions. The incoming audio is looped
and modulated by the synthesizer and played back
through stereo loudspeakers.
Subsequent calls to the phones produce new incoming
signals that gradually displace the previously recorded audio.
Additional layers of sounds are added by intermittently tap-
ping and knocking on the piano, manipulating its strings
directly, repositioning the mobile phones, etc.
Using the audio-to-MIDI function in Ableton Live software,
the Prepaid Piano recordings from side A are algorithmically
analysed and converted into MIDI notation. When applied to
the harmonically and rhythmically ambiguous Prepaid Piano
recordings, the audio-to-MIDI device’s inherent limitations
are magnified. The MIDI notation it generates under these
circumstances is effectively an original composition which
(although distantly related to the source material) is the
result of the audio-to-MIDI algorithm’s inability to correctly
‘read’ the information it is presented with. The newly
generated MIDI notation is then used to control and play
a synthesizer consisting of an oscillator, sampler, filter,
and effects modules.
Edition of 300 copies. 15 euro + shipping costs. Co-published with Entr’acte
And a nice video here.