The New Music Conflagration, Inc. presents a set of free lectures on the subject of toy piano as a serious concert instrument. This event is part of the four-day Florida International Toy Piano Festival.
Noon - Adam Scott Neal - Vital Materiality in Cage’s Music for Amplified Toy Pianos
Is John Cage's Music for Amplified Toy Pianos really “for” the titular instruments? Considering the extreme indeterminacy of the score, along with Cage's use of unspecified “noises,” the piece appears to have broader concerns. Through his experience preparing this piece for performance, Adam relates Cage's practice of indeterminacy to Jane Bennett's concept of vital materialism. Chance is not random coincidence, but a 'distributed agency' among the objects involved in realizing the work.
1:00pm - Alan Shockley - A Primer on Extended Techniques for Toy Piano
The toy piano is coming into its own. With the recent boom in new solo works for toy piano as well as lots of recent chamber works that include the instrument, and several performers now dedicating themselves solely to performing on the toy piano, performers and composers have also begun to experiment with extended techniques for the instrument.
There are at least a few extended techniques for the piano that can easily be transferred to the toy piano, though the effect on the instrument may be quite different. These include simple clusters of various sorts, such as both diatonic and chromatic clusters, ones both rolled and blocked, fingered, played with the palms, fists, or forearms. On most toy pianos quite large clusters are easily possible with the palms (on some instruments of smaller compass, two hands are even enough to play a full-compass cluster!). The guiro effect (used by Lachenmann in his 1969 work for solo piano Guero) also transfers nicely to the toy piano. This glissando on the keytops without depressing the keys far enough to allow the hammers to strike makes a lovely full clacking sound on the toy piano, and can be executed on the sharps or the naturals alone, or on both simultaneously—and even with the two hands moving in contrary motion.
There are also a few simple preparations that are easy to do on the toy piano. Bars can be muted, rubbed, scraped, bowed with various implements, and played with the fingers and with mallets of various sorts.
One of the wonderful things about toy pianos is that they are inexpensive instruments. They practically beg to be the subject of experimentation. Preparations that many performers would be afraid to try on a grand piano, are easily possible on a toy piano, and a composers can acquire several instruments for experimentation without breaking the bank.
In this talk Shockley will lay out these and several other extended techniques and demonstrate them with brief audio examples drawing from recent works by Aaron Holloway-Nahum, David Smooke, myself, and other composers. I will also demonstrate many of the techniques “live” with a modified Schoenhut toy piano, one which allows greater access to the sounding rods, opening up many more extended technique possibilities.
Alan Shockley (USA) A Primer on Extended Techniques for Toy Piano
Alan Shockley holds the Ph.D. in music composition from Princeton University. Shockley has held residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Atlantic Center, the Virginia Center for the Arts, Italy’s Centro Studi Ligure, and France’s Centre d’Art Marnay Art Centre (CAMAC), among others, and he has received grants from the American Music Center, Pittsburgh ProArts, the Mellon, and the Heinz Foundations.
His works have been performed at the International Society of Bassists Convention, the Composers Concordance Festival, Electronic Music Midwest, the American Choral Directors Association Conference, the Spark (Minneapolis), U3 (Pittsburgh), Montecito (California), and Frontiera (Pisa) festivals, and at the American Academy in Rome, the University of Cape Town, the Fondation des États-Unis in Paris, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, New York City’s Merkin Hall, Columbia University’s Miller Theater, and other locations around the globe, including performances in Berlin, Sydney, Stellenbosch, Oxford, Montreal, Maribor, Munich, Bucharest, Essen, Toronto, and Amsterdam, among many others. His electronic works have been installed in Jack Straw Studio’s New Media Gallery in Seattle, Minneapolis’ Weisman Art Museum (for a Bob Dylan exhibition), as part of the International Computer Music Conference, and in Brooklyn’s VertexList Gallery, as well as in other venues across both North America and Europe. His little white house (underpass to the foundation), 1 p.m. for nine player toy pianos formed a part of Trimpin’s installation klavier nonette.
His new study of extended techniques for piano, The Contemporary Piano (forthcoming from Rowman & Littlefield), includes a full chapter devoted to writing for the toy piano as well as extended techniques for the instrument. Shockley is an Associate Professor and the Director of Composition/Theory in the Bob Cole Conservatory at California State University, Long Beach.
Adam Scott Neal (USA) Vital Materiality in Cage’s Music for Amplified Toy Pianos
Adam Scott Neal (b. 1981, Atlanta) is a composer, video artist, and improviser. He earned a PhD at the University of Florida and previous degrees at Queen’s University Belfast and Georgia State University. Adam has enjoyed over 150 performances of his music in 28 states and 9 countries. He is Program Director for the Charlotte New Music Festival works for East Carolina University.