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Moving Bodies, Piano Body

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Publication details

JournalPerformance Research
DateSubmitted - 2018
DatePublished (current) - 29 Oct 2018
Issue number4-5
Number of pages4
Pages (from-to)351-354
Original languageEnglish


Pianists move. A lot. Non-pianists are often unaware of the extent to which piano technique involves the whole body—not just the fingers, hands or even arms, but the whole upper body plus the lateral movement of the whole torso—in the complex negotiation of the subtleties of sound production. However, the relationship is unlike that of most musicians with their instruments: due to its size and mechanics, the piano cannot be thought of as coextensive or even prosthetic. It is not, like many instruments, incorporated, after many years of practice, into our body schema. At the same time, as a pianist, any sense I have of myself as a creative entity is deeply bound to my embodied experience of the instrument, to the details of tone, resonance and touch. This contribution briefly explores these matters, drawing on images and words from Player Piano, a large-scale, theatrical piano performance, devised by the performer in collaboration with theatre makers Teresa Brayshaw and Hannah Butterfield, composers Edward Jessen, Annea Lockwood, Roger Marsh and Paul Whitty, and film maker Wendy Kirkup. Player Piano was developed as part of a research project examining the production of subjectivity in musical performance, partly by developing new musical performances that foreground matters of embodiment and identity.

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