A Piano Listening To Itself, inducing Chopin in chords

A Piano Listening To Itself

Moving across two and a half decades from the windy north Atlantic coast of Canada to the center of Warsaw, the large-scale Aeolian instruments of Gordon Monahan form a temporal bridge between the Fluxus-propelled experimental music of the sixties and seventies and contemporary sound art production. Taking the former’s deconstruction of musical heritage and combining it with an approach closely related to land art, in 1984 Gordon Monahan made his first long string installation in the snow covered plains of New Brunswick. His Long Aeolian Piano had wires 20 to 50 meters long attached to its sounding board. The wires were strung across a field so that, when exited by the wind, they produced Aeolian tones that would travel across the landscape, placing a spell on the quiet Canadian countryside. In 2010 Gordon Monahan produced a new work for the old city center of Warsaw, A Piano Listening To Itself – Chopin Chord. Acknowledging the primacy of culture over nature at the historical site, here the focus shifts away from the natural elements, turning to confront the classical repertoire.
Six long wires were strung between the tower of the Royal Castle and a grand piano placed in the square below. From the tower’s balcony recorded fragments of several works by Chopin were played back into the wires and transmitted to the sounding board of the piano, using electric motors as transducers. Acting simultaneously as telegraph lines, transmitting a signal, and as resonators, modulating it, the wires extended instrument and composition over the site, as if haunting it with a ghost of it’s heritage, physically providing a representation both of the extended duration of Chopin’s legacy and of the distance between the cultural context that produced his music and our own.

Matteo Marangoni