"Piano Dismantling Operations" is a live performance
in which we destroy a grand piano by processing the acoustics of the
destruction, using a computer. In this work, we don't use any so-called
electric synthesized sounds or unrelated sampled sounds. What you hear
is the sound of the piano itself, the noise that the tools make as
well as the real-time computer processed sounds.
Of all the musical instruments, pianos are the most extreme
incarnation of western rationalism. The keys are lined up in regular
order, the extremely wide register matches an orchestra's, the tuning
by equal temperament is done so because of cost priorities, there is
a minute action of the hammers and the pedals, the steel frame supports
the inside, there are taut wires, and the quality of the wood and the
coating is important. Whichever factor you examine, the mechanism which
has such cumbrous complexity is integrated with rational thought, but
dressed in transcendental decoration.
Pianos are analog computers designed in the name of musical instrument and
also polished up, machine devised tyrannosaurus at the same time. Thus pianos
have become too uncomfortable and dull now although we pay our respects to
their ability and history. So, lets destroy a piano. We might be too much dipped
in rationalism from the moment of our birth to escape from the spell by only
destroying pianos. But we may feel a little lighter.
Meanwhile we are living being surrounded by digital computers, which are the
most advanced and complex tools that were given by western rationalism. In
our present society, there is no one who can be not related to any computers
although you don't touch pianos unless you are a musician. We are able to destroy
pianos however we haven't made up our minds to destroy computers yet.
Computers are similar to pianos. Computers construct information with accurate
lines of bits as pianos construct music from the orderly lines of the keys.
The mechanism inside the pianos and the computer circuits are similar figures
changing the phase. People make computers roar information as if they spin
music from pianos. Computers are indispensable as prop of present information
society like pianos played an important role in modern western music.
Therefore we decided to make computers which are half brothers of pianos be
present at the pianos' death as we decided to destroy pianos. It is proper
for the death of pianos, and also the role of computers. It's both dismantling
of music and a battle of information. Will we destroy computers someday?
"Piano Dismantling Operations" is roughly devised
into the performance before the dismantlement and the one of the dismantlement
(A) The performance before the dismantlement is both a requiem and a funeral
march, and it is held by the piano itself. There are 5 small short pieces played
here as following.
1. "Piano Painting" Death make-up is given to the piano.
2. "The Grudge of Piano" The homage for special rendition of the
3. "Electric Piano" The piano wires, which are conductors, are sparked
by being sent a high voltage electric current.
4. "Hammer Piano" Regarding the whole body of the piano as a percussion
instrument, we keep on beating it.
5. "Farewell to Piano" The last respects are paid to the piano.
(B) The dismantlement of the piano is done not only by the electric tools like
chain saws or electric drills but also by hand tools like hammers or axes.
Naturally, there isn't any definite process in dismantlement of pianos, it
comes to a continual series of trials and errors. It is like investigating
the unknown world groping our way in the dark and it also begins to reveal
the mechanism of pianos that we don't normally realize. In addition, when the
blades of the electric tools which was working remarkably become weak because
of the hard usage, we gradually become to rely on hand tools from necessity.
When it comes to the stage of cutting the piano wires which follows danger
the tension builds up at a stretch, when you play the key of the piano which
is half broken down, it causes the laughter of the audience. In this way, the
piano dismantlement progress as a performance that has a strong character as
a kind of story not as a mere process. And finally, after the complete dismantlement
of the piano, it comes to the curtain fall as the broken small pieces of the
remains of the piano are distributed to the audience.
Here, I quote a few lines of a report that is written by a journalist who visited "Piano
"When I chanced to be present at the scene of the dismantlement,
strangely, there is few feelings of objection against authority, violence
and intense grief. It's rather a carnival. I felt that it was like hunting
and defeating a beast with the whole village and sharing the delicious parts
by Yuko Nexus6,"WIRED"Magazine Japanese Edition, January 1998
Dismantling pianos has been done several times although
not so frequently before. But "Piano Dismantling Operations" is
held not as Fluxus movement in 60's but with the technologies of the end of
the 20th century. That is, the existence of the computer which calmly
stares at the dismantlement is decisively different from the past performances.
The brief summery of the computer system used in "Piano Dismantling Operations" is
as following. Firstly, piezo pick ups are placed at several parts of the body
of the piano, and they directly picks up the vibration of the piano. And also,
there are some microphones standing around the piano to pick up the sound the
piano makes. Those sound signals are taken into the computers through DA converters.
Two computers are used here and they run the acoustic processing programs by
Kyma System and Max+MSP respectively. The operators "play" them by
manipulating the parameter of the program responding the progress of the performance.
The basic action of the program is to memorize the sound and noise that the
piano and the tools make, process them in real time and playback them as reconstructed
acoustic. However, it forms a harmonious surrounding and time as varieties
of sound effect which is created by various sound processing technique is mixed
up with the acoustic arising there.
This work was made by the following staff:
Monna Sakai, Lewis Matsuo, Akiko Ootsuka, Suguru Goto, Masahiro Miwa, Satoru
Wono, Yukito Ueda, Sumihisa Arima, Jiro Hirano, Kazuhisa Uchihashi, Yoshihiro
Kawasaki, Yasuji Yamahata, Masayuki Eguchi, Takahito Toyama, Daisuke Ishikawa,
Toshiyuki Kimura, Takashi Shiraishi, Toshihiro Shirakawa, Kazunari Kobayashi,
Hisakazu Moriwaki and Masayuki Akamatsu