In the video installation Autograph, I am practicing Toccata in C minor, BWV 911 by J.S. Bach on a ‘silent piano’. I have been practicing this piece since about 2005.
In the video installation, viewers enter a room with floor-to-ceiling projections facing off, immersed in the toneless, overlapping percussive drumming of the piano practice that is not quite digital and not all there.
This is one part of Three Shapes of a Note, a suite that overlays notes on music from my Gong Gong (grandfather) and Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould. Through sculpture, video installation and performance, these works explore music production as an embodied practice, particularly through attentiveness, repetition, and isolation.
Running Time: 5:00, looped
2-channel video installation
Aspect ratio: 960 x 720
The Netherlands, 2011
“So I decided to try the Last Resort method. That was to place beside the piano a couple of radios, or possibly one radio and one television, turn them up full blast so loudly that, while I could feel what I was doing, I was primarily hearing what was coming off the radio speaker or the television speaker or, better still, both. I was separating, at this point, my areas of concentration, and to such an extent that I realized that that in itself would not break the chain of reaction. But I realized I had to do something more than that.
[He continues to describe the left hand, a dozen permutations, sings a few examples, describes playing unmusically, the radios going, a cup of coffee, sitting down and the block is gone.]
Now, the point is that you have to begin, I think, by finding a way to any instrument that gets rid of the whole notion that the instrument presents you with a set of tactile problems. The problem then is to have a sufficient advance and/or extra-tactile experience of the music so that anything that the piano does isn’t permitted to get in the way. In my own case, my means toward this is to spend most of the time away from the piano, which can be difficult because you occasionally want to hear what it sounds like. But a certain analytical ideal, an analytical completeness, at any rate, is theoretically possible as long as you stay away from the piano.”
- Glenn Gould, interviewed by Jonathan Cott in 1974