I was honoured with the opportunity to be one of the nine pianists in Andrea Buttner's Piano Destruction Exhibition. She showcased archived footage of men destroying pianos using various painful methods from stepping, sawing, axing, to melting snow on the strings. It was interesting to observe their methods of destroying the piano, as some seemed more experimental, while the others demonstrated pure aggression.
If you are in as much shock as I am, take solace in the fact that the destroyed pianos were typically old with little life in them... but still, the idea of destroying a piano, any piano, still emanates a visceral reaction.
Besides the fascinating topic of piano destruction, Andrea brilliantly put together an exhibition where the footage of the men destroying the pianos is in conjunction with the nine female pianists simultaneously playing the music by Schumann, Chopin, and Monteverdi. The contrast is a beautiful dissonance that makes a bold statement about destruction and creation.
The experience of playing together as a group of nine was empowering. The piano is usually characterized as a solo instrument, but in this case, we were a collective voice or a "piano choir" as our music director, Luciane Cardassi put it. The sheer strength of the sound and resonance of all nine pianos was powerful and intimate at the same time. I had imagined nine pianos together as chaos, but instead, it was a refined, mighty sound.
As a music therapist, I am interested in the group experience, and in order for us to play together, intense listening was required. As every musician knows, and similarly in life, no practice or performance is the same. In this respect, we are constantly improvising and responding to the elements at hand. As a group, it was a fine balance between following Luciane's conducting and listening to the sounds around us. Everyone's voice was important, and yet sometimes I could not hear my own voice; which was acceptable since my sound was the collective sound. As a pianist, it is a very counter-intuitive kind of practice.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing with the group and getting to know each one of them outside of our practices in the Walter Phillips Gallery. I also soaked up the rugged beauty around me, including the cabin-like accommodation with wood furnishings and a large fire place inside the lounge. Every day I was spoiled with the rich, buffet style, fresh creations that day, including home-made mint chocolate chip ice cream. I had access to my very own, piano studio with a gorgeous view of the mountains and a 7 foot Yamaha Grand Piano inside. Lastly, I was pampered with their indoor swimming pool, hot tub, and steam room and indulged in a relaxing massage the day before our performance, which turned out to be a smashing success!
All in all, my week long residency was the equivalent of an artist's spa, where you are surrounded by beauty, art, and other artists. I was thoroughly pampered, and I hope to be back some day for one of my own projects in the near future.