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Prepared Piano and Free Improv


MathOfInsects

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I do both. It's not my bread and butter, but both have come to be nice tools in the arsenal when guys are willing to get all the way out there.

 

I was actually considering quitting piano until I started "playing the inside." Doing so rekindled--or maybe kindled--a passion for the beast as the world's greatest amplifier and sound producer, with or without its fussy set of perfectly segmented black and white controllers on the front. Playing the inside turns the piano into a bell, a gong, a drum, a cello, a fretless and non-decaying tone generator, a giant resonating sound-producer with almost limitless timbral possibility.

 

Free improv also helped me reapproach my mainstream playing. The moments of beauty that emerge from the willingness to embrace the possibility of disaster are among my most sublime music-making and -listening memories, and they've let me approach more structured contexts as a chance to discover (rather than create) something in real time. I'm grateful for it.

 

I know (or sense) that most here are not fans of free improv, and I've seen very few references to prepared piano here. But for those of you who might enjoy it, I figured I'd start this thread as a place to post links to great examples of 'playing the inside' and of free improv performances.

 

To start, here is Antonello Salis starting with a long prepared-piano free improv, and ending with a blues-on-crack explosion of technique and ideas.

 

Enjoy.

 

[video:youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNvH9QfOFcc

Now out! "Mind the Gap," a 24-song album of new material.
www.joshweinstein.com

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Interesting post

I guess that many people is not too much into the prepared piano stuff cause most of us don't own a grand piano to make all the preparations, and it's dead difficult to prepare an upright. This is the main obstacle to approach the prepared piano IMO

Salis has a monster technique. I especially like his bluesy stuff combined with his out playing. He's a very talented accordionist as well...

Be grateful for what you've got - a Nord, a laptop and two hands
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Prepared piano is very cool! I like the fact that it makes you re-think the possibilities of the piano as a pure sound generator outside of conventional harmony.

 

When I was in college, my 20th Century Music class (this was way back when the 20th Century was contemporary) helped with a performance that included some of Cage's sonatas and interludes, we did the preparations, and one of the piano profs played the pieces. One thing I remember is that there was a huge difference between the preparation/practice session, when we could stick our ears right up against the strings, and the performance, when we all had sit a respectful distance away in the hall. The sounds coming directly off the strings were pretty amazing, it was less interesting to hear it at a distance.

 

Some years ago, I attended a concert/workshop by Denman Maroney, in a trio with Robert Dick on flute and Mark Dresser on bass. Maroney is a real master of playing inside the piano, and it was very interesting to catch some of his techniques. I like the way he mixes tonal playing with the textures from his preparations.

[video:youtube]

 

Free improvisation is hugely important to me, I've done a lot of improvised shows and listened to a lot of free music. In my band, almost all of our compositions start off as improvisations, we regularly set aside parts of our practice sessions just to improvise and come up with new material.

Turn up the speaker

Hop, flop, squawk

It's a keeper

-Captain Beefheart, Ice Cream for Crow

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Thanks for the thoughtful replies. Yes, Maroney is a mad genius, and I'm proud to count Mark D as a friend. For those who don't know him, or who think that improv and extended techniques are just "playing your instrument wrong," I urge you to google Dresser and watch a monster at work. Truly one of the great living instrumentalists, free improv or otherwise.

 

More when I'm non-mobile...

Now out! "Mind the Gap," a 24-song album of new material.
www.joshweinstein.com

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Thanks, I hadn't seen that. Some good information for the budding piano-prepper.

 

Since he mentions bowing, here's what that sounds like. This is the Bowed Piano Ensemble from Colorado College. If you haven't heard the sound of bowed piano strings before, this may sound otherworldly to you:

 

[video:youtube]

Now out! "Mind the Gap," a 24-song album of new material.
www.joshweinstein.com

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Volker Bertelmann, with eBows. Lovely:

 

[video:youtube]

 

I saw him play with Hilary Hahn, when they were touring in support of their record. Lots of respect for Hahn as a great classical violinist sticking her neck out into the world of improv, but Hauschka stole the show.

 

I'll check out the other vids soon. Thanks for posting!

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  • 2 weeks later...
I keep hand towels inside the piano and flat rubber pads when I mute the strings and play funky bass solos. I think the acid in skin oil corrodes and rusts the strings.

 Find 600 of my jazz piano arrangements and tutorials for educational purposes at patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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