*Commissioned by CONTAINER Ensemble.
Roberto Maqueda: Percussion
Sara Méndez: Saxophone
Chris Moy: E-Guitar
Haize Lizarazu: Piano, Keyboard
Tatiana Timonina: Flute
Miao Zhao: Clarinet
Adrián Albadalejo: Trombone
Fernando Manassero: Sound Engineer
The mechanization of music
With The mechanization of music CONTAINER places the piano in the spotlight. The aim is to show, through repertoire written for it throughout the 20th century, the evolution of the mechanization of music during these years. The programme features composers ranging from the iconic Conlon Nancarrow to Manuel Rodríguez Valenzuela and Johannes Kreidler.
It is a clear fact that we are living in the digital era for a while now. We cannot think about art and music reproduction without taking into account all the technological developments that happened in the past century. If we dig into the origins of the music machines and automata, if we dive into the archeology of the music technology, the keyboard instrument – the piano, more specifically – appears as one of the most important and relevant mechanical objects of the western art culture. From its construction and manufacturing to the massive distribution in every house of the high-class society, the piano has become an icon, a symbol of the industrialized western culture.
In the late XIX century, a big development occurred in the automatic music reproduction realm: the pianola or player-piano, a keyboard instrument that didn’t need a performer to reproduce the big masterpieces of the time.
This instrument opened a whole new way of possibilities for the distribution and democratization of music, and in addition, there was a composer that thought about it as a new instrument, a machine, with its own special possibilities that could only be performed by the machine itself (and not as a mere reproduction system of the human performances). We are talking about the American-Mexican composer Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997). His Studies for Player Piano are one of the most visionary and advanced music pieces of the first half of the XX century, exploring the possibilities of a fully music automata. Some of his most important works and punched music-rolls are conserved in the Paul Sacher Stiftung, with whom CONTAINER Ensemble is in conversations to be informed and do a proper research on the topic.
In the second half of the XX century the digitalization of sound took the place of the analogic and mechanical. The MIDI protocol became one of the biggest agreements in the electronic music industry history. Computers and synthesizers were gaining positions and becoming very popular. And once more, the piano as a mechanical object, went to a new transformation through the Yamaha house invention: the Disklavier. With the Disklavier we encounter a hybrid instrument: half mechanical and half digital. This would be the modern and digital version of the aforementioned pianola. A piano that can record, receive and reproduce any kind of analogic/mechanical input (performing on the keyboard) and digital data (MIDI).
As we can see, the piano draws a line in the evolution of the mechanization of music through the XX century. CONTAINER Ensemble presents therefore the project “The mechanization of music”. The aim is to show on stage through musical examples this fascinating evolution. From Conlon Nancarrow and his Studies for Player Piano to the piece 29, by the Berlin based Manuel Rodríguez Valenzuela (for ensemble and Disklavier), CONTAINER presents a journey through the mechanization and digitalization of music. In addition, a new piece to Johannes Kreidler (Composition Professor at the Hochschule für Musik Basel) will be commissioned, which circles the concept of the project and revisits it with a new, modern perspective.