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Multi-venue simultaneous piano concert celebrates Richter

13 November 2013

Composer Jim Aitchison
Composer Jim Aitchison© Alex Walker

A concert inspired by visual artist Gerhard Richter will be performed on four pianos – with a catch: each instrument in is a different venue.

The Yamaha Disklaviers – separated by 300 miles – will be remotely controlled by a parent instrument at Falmouth’s Academy of Music and Theatre Arts (AMATA), and played by just one pianist, Roderick Chadwick. The other participating venues are the Royal Academy of Music (RAM), Goldsmiths University and Yamaha Music London.

Jim Aitchison’s Portraits for a Study translates paintings by Richter into musical responses for solo piano and string quartet. The project draws on themes of chance, disturbance, sequences and memory; inspired by Richter’s output.

‘Richter’s paintings have a very clear sense of reticence and anonymity; there is a tangible sense of distance. It might sound crude, but I wanted to explore the real graphical distance where the performance is forcibly separate from the audience,’ explains Aitchison. ‘It will be a disconcerting experience to see a piano that appears automated – but it won’t be, as there will be a “live” performer, and the exact nuances of his performance will be created in the other three spaces, in real time.’

Chadwick will open the performance at AMATA in Falmouth, triggering the three remote Disklavier pianos in London to perform by themselves (via data transfer over broadband), to their respective audiences. Images from Richter’s 2012 Tate Modern show will also be projected.

Richter’s practice of passing the same images through various processes will be evoked further when the same musical responses for piano are passed to the Kreutzer Quartet at the RAM, where Aitchison is an honorary research fellow, and transmitted back to all of the other venues via an audio link. 

‘Richter passes the same image through different filters, so I am recomposing the same music for string quartet – it’s not a rearrangement; to convert piano textures into string quartet requires rethinking,’ says Aitchison.

‘Terry Riley did something similar in the eighties with NASA, but to my knowledge I don’t think that this type of composition has be written before. Crucially, it is not written for Disklavier, it is written for the piano, and there will be a legacy for pianists.’

The concert – which takes place on 22 February at 7:30pm – is supported by Arts Council England, the PRS for Music Foundation and Yamaha Music Europe GmbH (UK).

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