Untitled #400


untitled #400 is a project presented as a world premiere by Spaniard Francisco López and Dutch pianist and composer Reinier Van Houdt at the opening of the 31st edition of AngelicA, on May 15th, 2021. The two musicians already worked together on untitled #275, a performance for mechanically prepared piano, quadraphonics and electronics which received a special mention at the 2011 edition of the Ars Electronica festival in Linz. In comparison to the piano "preparation" implemented in #275, the concept behind untitled #400, developed during six years, effectively introduced a new instrument: a "stringless piano" (or "inside-out piano"), whose initial inspiration came from Lopez's installation The [Music] Room presented at the Caramoor Centre for Music and Arts in Katonah (New York), in which a Disklavier piano in full automatic performance could be seen playing, but without hearing the notes associated to the keys, since the hammers were not touching the strings. The stringless piano used in untitled #400 consists exclusively of a portion of the instrument disassembled: the part comprising the keyboard and keys, the hammers and the interconnected mechanical parts, used as an autonomous unit of execution. The housing case, the lid, the soundboard, the strings and the pedals of a regular piano are completely missing. The first movement is played by van Houdt acoustically. In the absence of the strings, what you hear are the dull thuds of the felt of the hammers (several of which would be found on the ground at the end of the concert, due to the violence of the performance), but also the creaks of the wood against the screws and the metal sheets -- in fact, all the peculiar sound and mechanical-behavioral characteristics of the new instrument are explored, thanks to the powerful miking applied by López. The second movement, on the other hand, represents an "evolutionary transformation" created in the recording studio using exclusively exploded, dissected and recombined sound materials from the first movement, which in the live dimension is spatially diffused with an immersive audio system in total darkness, as is the custom of the Spanish musician in the last few years. The concept behind untitled #400 actually seems to reference to the "Machinistic Music" which occupied the vanguards of the early twentieth century, and which finds its contemporary expression in several of Lopez's compositions developed from original recordings of production machinery, electromechanical systems, and industrial sites.