The project

492

With pianist/curator Frederik Croene and composers Cathy van Eck, Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri, Falk Hübner, Matthew Shlomowitz, Simon Steen-Andersen, David Helbich, Stefan Prins  and Laura Maes.

Eight composers accepted to compose ‘a piece’ for ‘a pianist’.  No restrictions have been formulated; the composers are free to rephrase the role of the pianist, his instrument or even the very concept of a recital itself.  The composers have been selected because of their resistance to categorisation and a common interest in visual, theatrical, intersensory and conceptual aspects of contemporary classical composition.

All composers are born in the seventies, have a common background in classical music and live and work in Western Europe (Belgium, Holland, England, Denmark, Greece, Germany and Switzerland). Some of them are already renowned; others might become it as this project represents a refreshing wave in contemporary classical music that has already been traceable in small amounts on several festival occasions. This piano project wants to create a perfect biosphere in which this young generation can work out its attractive ideas in a new form of music + performance.
The result will not only be presented as a performance. The piano will be extended with video, tape, kinetic sculptures and mechanised sound devices, a sampler machine, laptop, contact microphones, theatrical piano objects/actions, conceptual program notes, even a dripping ice sculpture. This way the piano and its many satellites can successfully work as a peculiar sound installation open for public curiosity and interaction before or after the performance.

Origins.
March 2010 a new issue of the RTRSRCH Magazine was launched. Curator Paul Craenen selected nine composers/performers and asked them to contribute a text for this journal. They presented one or several of their works, sharing their motivations and sources of inspiration. Extra sonorous elements play a role in all contributions and became a central theme of the magazine. From the perspective of their common classical education, the multimedial works these composers presented could be understood as ‘faits divers’, as subversive experiments that only intend to tackle the conventions of artistic discipline. The journal was a first step to counter this prejudgment. The contributions show that a new generation of classically educated musicians is attempting to redefine their practice and no longer feels bound to one particular medium. A second, logical step was to combine forces and to re-interpret a very classical theme: the piano recital.
The title of the journal: Beginning with music, continuing otherwise, becomes concrete: let’s begin with this old 492 kilo thing and discover how we can continue, whilst abandoning its heavy traditions.

Performance.
The performance questions the role of the pianist and the audience, draws a bead on the concept of a piano recital and searches for new functions of the instrument.
The show is composed of seven pieces that are not placed after one another but that fuse to a whole. The concept of a classical recital takes a turn. Elements of certain pieces are audible during other works: a sculpture that suddenly starts to produce sound, drops on glass plates that form a permanent muted soundtrack and so on.
Cathy van Eck does not only question the role of the pianist, but also of the piano. She places the piano back in the 19th century living room and no longer considers the piano as a musical instrument, but as a piece of furniture.  The pianist does not touch the keys of the piano, but manipulates all sorts of objects.  Matthew Shlomowitz extends the keyboard and confronts the traditional piano sounds with animal sounds and heavy guitars. Laura Maes adds new elements by placing force sensing resistors on the keyboard that allow the pianist to control the timbre of the piano as well as an ice sculpture. 
Simon Steen-Andersen exploits all 88 piano keys with the aid of a long board. Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri also searches for new sound possibilities through putting the mechanical sound machines she constructed together with sound artist Pe Lang next to the prepared piano.  Falk Hübner investigates the choreographical potential of movements necessary for the execution of extended techniques. He dresses the stage with piano objects and video images. 
Not only the function of the piano and the pianist are widened, the role of the audience also changes. Thanks to the intervention of David Helbich the audience obtains an active role.

Installation.
Several components of the performance can also be arranged as an installation. The piano is exhibited with its various extensions. It is no longer the pianist, but the audience that enters into a dialogue with these extensions.

Publication.
The function of the publication is twofold. On the one hand it will document and archive the 492 kilo project; on the other hand it will function as a catalogue of the exhibition (492 kilo as an installation).  Content wise, the publication will contain visual and text material of the various piano extensions. The publication will also include a reflection on the preparation of the project and the working process. Next to documenting the project, 492 kilo will also be placed in a broader theoretical framework.
Just as the borders between the various contributions becomes blurred during the performance and installation, several layers of meaning will also merge in the publication, fading out the distinction between document and catalogue. 

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