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«Expanded music»: the technological extension of body and instrument in Simon Steen-Andersen’s Piano Concerto (2013/14)

Stefan Drees

Nuove Musiche Numero 5 - 2018, pagine: 95-117
DOI 10.12871/9788833395375 | @ Pisa University Press 2021
Pubblicato: 20 settembre 2021


The combination of music and technology is an essential dimension in the works of composer Simon Steen-Andersen (b. 1976). With focus on his Piano Concerto (2013/14) and taking into account the earlier compositions Rerendered for piano and two assistants (2003, rev. 2004), Pretty Sound (Up & Down) for amplified piano solo (2008), and Study for String Instrument #3 (2011), this paper explores how Steen-Andersen uses the slowed down video recording of a piano destruction as structural origin for the compositional process but also as impulse for the formal and musical dramaturgy of his piece. By creating a virtual “alter ego” of the live pianist from audio and video recordings of the reconstructed, but severely damaged instrument, he establishes an augmented piano, which functions as technological extension of the normal instrument and of the performer’s body – a concept whose roots can be traced back to works by other composers like Pierre Boulez (1925-2016), Jonathan Harvey (1939-2012), Olga Neuwirth (b. 1968), or Michael van der Aa (b. 1970). Steen-Andersen uses the manifold timbral and visual qualities of his augmented piano not only to shape a complex audiovisual and theatrically enhanced dialogue between live performer and recorded pianist, but also to reconfigure the concert as one of the most important musical genres and as vehicle for instrumental virtuosity.

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