The Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History
“Piano 300” Exhibition
Premiered at the “Exploring the American Piano” concert on
January 26, 2001
Forrest Tobey, Buchla Lightning Wands
Jeffery Watson, piano
Steve Antosca, computer
invisible landscape was composed for the Smithsonian’s Piano 300 celebration and premiered at the “Exploring the American Piano” concert on January 26, 2001 at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington, DC. In an evening of piano music celebrating 100 years of American composers' contributions to experimental piano writing, which included works by Cowell, Copland, Cage and Crumb, the Washington Post described the performance of invisible landscape as "the highlight of the evening."
invisible landscape brings together the interactive dynamic between live performer and computer technology. Prepared piano sounds, inside the piano sounds and piano harmonics have been sampled and then computer processed. These are stored in a sample playback device, then triggered and spatially manipulated in real time through the HECTOR infrared conducted electronics system. These create a sweeping background to the piano performance as well as a counterpoint of expressive sonorities to the piano.
The HECTOR infrared conducted electronics system consists of two Buchla Lightning Wands, which are tracked by infrared receivers connected via Ethernet to a computer running Max/MSP. The software maps the conducting gestures to a sample playback device, which stores the computer processed piano samples, and to a digital mixer that receives the spatialization gestures from the system and translates this information to spatial placement in the hall.
For the composition of invisible landscape piano samples were recorded then computer processed. Sampled piano sounds for the piece include prepared piano sounds, piano harmonics, muted strings, plucked strings, sweeps inside the piano, chisel glissandi, the piano played with chains, glass rods and piano knocks. These samples were processed through a variety of ways such as comb filters, convolution, flanging, granular synthesis, vocoding and ring modulation. Samples were layered to create longer, more complex sample material and to control the shape of the samples. All final samples were transferred to a sample playback device and were then triggered via the HECTOR system during performance.
invisible landscape was composed for a Steinway D Concert Grand. The harmonics required of the pianist can only be performed on a large concert piano of the size and bracing scheme of the D. For the performance of invisible landscape the pianist is asked to execute various extended piano techniques such as sweeping inside the piano, playing harmonic nodes and chords on the piano strings and perfecting a harmonic glissando on the strings by sliding the fingers up and down the strings while playing the keys.
Toby Forrest, Buchla Lightning Wands
Jeffrey Watson, piano
Steve Antosca, computer
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (part 1/4)