Back in January 2013 I organized the first Bass Piano show in Berlin with friend and artist Sascha Mikloweit. It was a combination of visual art and performances on the Bass Piano by myself and Composer / Performer John Kameel Farah (who wrote a nice post about the show here). The event was held in the studio loft space of artist Matthias Krause. Once the show was over I had no idea what I was going to do with the piano. To my surprise Jan and Andi of Mouse on Mars were at the show. They loved the Bass Piano so much that they wanted it in their studio. Moving arrangements were made and the Berlin Bass Piano lives on!
Here is an improvisation performed by John Kameel Farah at the show…
I am back home in my little village after an exciting Bass Piano show in Toronto. It was presented by Wavelength (they did a little interview with me here) at the Creatures Creating Gallery with a piano generously on loan from Paul Hahn & Co. The performances were captivating and I was honoured to be supported by such talent. It was pretty special to see what other performers did with my strange creation.
I will have a recording of the full show up online soon but in the mean time you can hear excerpts on Mechanical Forest Sound:
Ryan Driver (Bass Piano), Justin Haynes (Celeste), Michael Davidson (Vibes)
Marilyn Learner (Bass Piano), Nichol Rampersaud (Trumpet)
Andrew Wedman (Bass Piano), Robin Buckley (Percussion)
The show was in collaboration with visual artist Sascha Mikloweit who is from Berlin and organized the first Bass Piano show there, along with pianist John Kameel Farah. Sascha’s piece was a video installation (which you can view here) coupled with a street postering campaign (big thanks to Amos Shaw!) that referenced the work of Daniel Burren and used the coloured stripes of the medal of honour from the War on Terror.
photo by amos shaw
Todd Stewart of Breeree designed and screen printed a really nice poster for the show as well.
I recently acquired an old Rhodes keyboard and have been tinkering around with it. The action is a very rudimentary design compared to the piano and I have been wondering if anyone has attempted to customize a Rhodes with a grand piano action. I suspect it would be possible.
I did a complete tuning on it and it sounds great. Though it is fairly easy to change the pitch on each tine, it is difficult to tune since you can not listen to the note and tune it at the same time (the tuning spring is attached to the tine, so adjusting it stops the vibration).
This past winter I visited an incredible piano shop in Barcelona called Parts Piano. With an unassuming storefront Parts Piano specializes in piano parts (obviously), technician tools and rebuilding player pianos. The owner and head technician, Xavier Garcia is also the inventor of a miniature piano where the hammers strike tuning forks instead of strings. He has two prototype models that he built, one with an upright action and one with a grand action and resonating tubes for each tuning fork. They are almost like an acoustic Rhodes but with a real piano action. I have never seen or heard anything like it. Xavier’s shop is full of inventions, machines and gizmos that he has created.
Xavier is a shy fellow and speaks very little english. Luckily Xavier’s employee Marcelo Cohen was in that day and acted as a translator and tour guide.
Xavier also built a miniature piano kit intended for technician training purposes. It is a full working model of an upright piano with just over two octaves, a flip down keyboard and transportation case. I am dreaming about importing these into Canada. Here it is complete with cast iron plate, sound board, full sized action and keys.
Recently the Shatford Centre in Penticton received a donation of a beautifully restored 1896 Bechstein grand from Bea Smith. Stu Goldberg gave it a workout for its debut concert in its new home. Here is a photo from the stage while I am prepping the piano for the performance
As reported in the New York Times in this article, many pianos from the turn of the century have their last note as a “thud in the dump.” It is sad but true that these 100 year old wooden mechanical instruments reach a point where it is too costly to restore them. The Naramata Centre has just retired three of their vintage upright pianos but none of them went to the landfill.
I helped out with the move and put one of them in my neighbour’s shed. It’s not quite waterproof yet, but the Piano Shack will be a great space for some experimental piano weirdness to happen.
The other two pianos went to the Shatford Centre where we will be doing a piano recycling workshop in May. We will be salvaging the wood and recycling the metal. If you are interested in coming, let me know, and get a tetanus shot.
I was tuning at the Penticton Lakeside Resort the other day. The only pianos that get more (ab)use than school pianos are hotel pianos. Not only wear and tear but often mysterious things spilled inside.
I am back in the Okanagan after a wild winter in Europe. I will post some stories about the bass piano show in Berlin and the tuning-fork-piano maker in Barcelona soon.
I am doing a major overhaul on a baby grand in Peachland right now.