Decomposed

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Decomposition- “A reaction where a single compound breaks down into simpler compounds.”

The piece was originally exhibited as part of the Interim Exhibition held at Grand Parade, Brighton. Following this, it was selected to be part of an exhibition for the Brighton International Festival and was displayed at the Brighton Dome. The exhibition was of recent local works and ‘Decomposed’ was commended and shortlisted for the final prize.

The piano is something that I keep revisiting as the main subject matter of the body of my work. ‘Decomposed’, the installation and film that I presented in my second year ‘Interim’ show was based around the actual decomposition of a piano and the investigation of decomposing a piece of music.

The actual piano I used for the piece was the first piano I learnt to play and compose on, although it has undergone a massive transformation over the years. When I was ten I asked my parents if I could play it in the garden and they agreed and we all wheeled it out into the garden. It has stayed there ever since. Over the last ten years I have watched my piano gradually disintegrate and become a part of nature with animals living in it, mosses and ivy growing through the hammers, gradually metamorphosing from a musical instrument into a piece of garden art.

When I came up with the idea for the gallery piece I wasn’t sure if the piano would disintegrate when I went home to collect it. This was part of the excitement of the project. What was I going to be left to play with? However, I was determined to carry on whatever happened.

To capture every moment of the process I used stop motion photography. I used this technique rather than using a conventional camera or video camera because I wanted to create a visual rhythm and convey the playfulness of my relationship to the instrument. This then became the film element of my gallery piece: the piano’s odyssey, i.e. journey through space and time.

In fact, the piano did fall apart when I tried to move it. I decided to salvage the body parts and see how I could reconstitute when I arrived back at University. When I finally unpacked it in the University Garden reinstalled the keyboard and started looking for ‘piano organ donors’. Someone gave me a new set of hammers and piano keys, which reanimated the piano.

However, my piano had lost its voice and whatever I did to the aesthetics and the body, it would remain unplayable in a conventional sense. As a consequence I set about composing a piece of music in D (with reference to ‘Decomposed’) remaining respectful of its newfound purpose but still offering it a chance to ‘feel’ again. I recorded the piece on an acoustic piano using an Edirol to maintain its authenticity and played through a set of speakers. I inserted the speakers behind the soundboard of the piano where I imagine the heart of the piano is located.

I explored many ways in which a piece of music can be decomposed after being composed, one that particularly interested me was starting with a finished composition and pulling a note out of the melody in each line, finally resulting and finishing with just the one note.

Throughout the process I became increasingly aware of the ‘conversation’, the tension between the raw, organic decomposition of the physical piano and my own synthetic electronic intervention: the decomposition of my own piano composition, which was achieved by disrupting and distorting the pitch, something that built on my initial piece of work this year.