- Branded a whore
Underground, A New Musical Instrument
It’s an established practice to put data into music to gain a deeper, different understanding of the information. The music composition, Underground, is built on this tradition, using earthquake data from the Icelandic Meteorological Office. The earthquakes are audibly realized on an old upright piano which has been taken apart in order to create a new instrument to experience the underground movements in a novel way.
Table of Contents
Underground consists of two independent, yet complementary components. The physical aspect of an old, rusty, upright piano that has been transformed into a new instrument and simultaneously a music composition based on data from the Icelandic Meteorological Office about earthquakes in the Bardabunga volcano from 29/08/2014- 01/09/14. These are the first four days before the Bardabunga volcano erupted, rewritten into a 20-minute composition. The bigger the earthquake, the deeper the string on the instrument that is played. As the eruption comes closer, the earthquakes grow. In the end, the quakes form musical and unpredictable rhythmical chords.
The instrument is built on an old upright piano. The front was removed, the harp laid flat, and new legs were built underneath. . Next, the hammer mechanism was reused to build new hammers that play the strings. The hammers themselves were not used. Instead, another part of the hammer mechanism that operates the hammer and damper, called the jack, was used to hammer the strings. The jack was then controlled with Solenoid motors, hammering straight on the strings.
Positioned around the instrument in the room are four speakers and a subwoofer. While the instrument performs the acoustic composition, an electronic counter piece is performed in the speaker system, adding depth to the sound sculpture. The subwoofer is meant to underline the earthquake effect with deep bass tones that are meant to “shake” the audience.
Listeners are asked to walk around the space while the piece is performed to experience the sound in different ways: standing close to the instrument to experience the microtones of each string, and further away to be shaken by the electronic soundscape.
The piece premiered in August at Cycle Music and Art festival in Iceland. It was a 20-minute performance and was performed twice at the festival. Later it traveled to Denmark and was exhibited at UNM, Young Nordic Music Days. Then again, it sailed back home and was exhibited at Nordic Music Days in Harpa.
When it was delivered back to my studio I decided to rip it apart and burn it. The remains still serve as fodder for the literal creative fire in my studio, Studio Bókó.
There were a couple of different reasons why I decided to burn the instrument. The main one was that I wanted to move on. I didn’t want to become one of those artist that become known for one piece that they created. If I would burn it, I would simply not be able to put up more exhibitions, leaving room for new pieces to evolve. And then it was more practicle reason – storage space. I don’t know how many people have space for an extra piano at the place, but I didn’t.
Finally, here is a PechaKucha presentation. Ung Nordisk Music 2016.