FRArt Rethinking the body of the piano and its vibration: extended pedal for new intra-piano playing

1. introduction

  • type: Article
  • ref: DOC.2021.175

The project aims to bridge a gap between the investigations of new intra-piano playing possibilities (started in the 1920s) and the evolution of the piano pedal system - still without any possibilities of control or activation beyond the traditional keyboard position. This project will develop an extended pedal system allowing precise control of the string dampers beyond the conventional keyboard configuration. The device is a physical extension that is "grafted" to the piano. It allows activating to the sustain pedal “remotely” i.e. from the sides and back of the piano.
The remote-control possibilities will considerably extend contemporary piano techniques possibilities and create new avenues for composition fostering a new repertoire and new sound explorations. The renewed access to the pedal and the reworked finesse of control allow envisaging new sound worlds and notation systems and revisiting a rich repertoire of existing pieces. The prospective effort will therefore be coupled with a retrospective insight into the development of the piano, whose construction has remained largely unchanged for the last 130 years, and on the key role of composition in the dissemination of new instrumental approaches.
To develop this project, a triple interaction between composition, test-performance and design-fabrication will be put in place. In addition to our practice as a composer-researcher and our numerous works on the new possibilities of the piano, the research stems from a series of experimental works (2019-2020) which have led to the development of a prototype. Four pieces will be composed in constant dialogue with six performers and two instrument builders. They will nourish the different phases of development of the extended pedal. The premiere of the pieces and demonstration of the new instrumental possibilities will be showcased through a series of concerts and seminars at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and partner institutions.