The Prepaid Piano *

by Andrew Pekler {LP}

  • Record/Vinyl

    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 Welt, Berlin.
    Inside a grand piano, five mobile tele­phones rest directly
    on the strings in five different areas of the piano soundboard.
    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 stationary telephones.

    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 synthesizer.

    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 tapping 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.

    Mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi
    Co-published with Senufo Editions

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released December 12, 2016



Entr’acte Antwerp, Belgium

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