when i lived in new york, probably 1971 or thereabouts, a whole bunch of my music classmates and i were transported to a theatre in downtown buffalo, new york, where we took part in an experimental music recording for some artist. i don’t remember anything about who the artist was, or what the recording was ultimately used for, but what happened is permanently etched on my mind: we were taken to the balcony, directly in front of the stage which had a whole bunch of stripped down pianos, and a bunch of what looked like large metal junk piled on it. there we were each given a small bucket full of tennis balls, and encouraged to be very quiet, and throw the tennis balls at the pianos and metal stuff. specifically, they told us that noise from the tennis balls was encouraged, but noise from our mouths was not. it was an occasion that was enjoyed thoroughly by everyone, and they collected the tennis balls and re-distributed them to us at least three times. then we all got on the school bus and went back to the school, which was in williamsville, a suburb of buffalo.

why do i bring this up, apart from the fact that it’s an interesting bit of trivia about my life?

i was poking around on wikipedia today, and i found this, which is in the first part of the article abut Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno. in the article, he was being encouraged in a project “Piano Tennis”… “after collecting pianos, they stripped and aligned them in a hall, striking them with tennis balls.” (wikipedia).

my family moved to the buffalo area in 1969. according to wikipedia, brian eno graduated from the Winchester School of Art in 1969, and he was in london in 1971 when he joined roxy music, so the probability that the artist that made the “experimental music recordings” that i took part in was not brian eno is pretty high, but i would be willing to bet that it was someone who saw eno’s performances at the winchester school, or someone that had heard about them…

anyway, i was so intrigued by the whole process that when the school i was attending had to “throw out” a piano that was “broken”, i persuaded the music teacher to let me have it, and i took it apart and wrote a piece of music for the “prepared” piano-harp in 1973, not long before we moved back to seattle.

2 thoughts on “weird…”

  1. john cage prepared the first piano for a performance in the old cornish theater, in which both i and my son have performed as well. he wrote for prepared piano because it duplicated the sounds of a percussion ensemble, but didn’t take up the space that a percussion ensemble would take… and if you’ve ever been in the old cornish theater, you would unerstand: there’s room for a percussion ensemble OR dancers, but not both. so john cage “did things” to a piano, so that there would be room for the dancers for whom he was composing.

    i suppose the “tinning” of a piano could be making it into a prepared piano. in my experience, preparing a piano also includes doing things to the strings and the dampers as well as the hammers. that’s the nice thing about a prepared piano, though: it doesn’t necessarily have to be prepared in the same way…

  2. that is a WAY cool story, sal.

    plus, I just recently ran across a recording (damn if I can remember which one right now) whose credits included someone on “prepared” piano and I couldn’t figure out what it meant.

    I mean, does pressing thumbtacks into the felt on the hammers (to get that western saloon sound) count? i.e. is “prepared” piano any variant that starts with a piano or its pieces?

Comments are closed.