UVI IRCAM Pre­pared Pi­ano

Future Music - - REVIEWS -

While the use of ef­fects man­gling, ex­treme sam­pling treat­ments or even cir­cuit-bend­ing are not un­com­mon in to­day’s elec­tron­ica scene, it is less often that you come across large acous­tic in­stru­ments that have un­der­gone sonic surgery. This is unashamedly the case with UVI’s Pre­pared Pi­ano li­brary, which has been pro­duced in col­lab­o­ra­tion with IRCAM – the world fa­mous re­search in­sti­tute that has been at the cen­tre of the ex­per­i­men­tal mu­sic world for the past 40 years.

Pre­pared pi­anos, where ob­jects are in­tro­duced to phys­i­cally in­ter­act with the strings, have a rel­a­tively long his­tory. How­ever, it was John Cage who ar­guably con­trib­uted most in terms of for­mal­is­ing the ap­proach, and who wrote pieces that specif­i­cally re­quired the use of screws (be­tween strings) com­bined with other dis­rup­tive ob­jects.

This UVI in­stru­ment makes use of their free Play en­gine – though it can also be in­te­grated into their Fal­con soft­ware – and re­quires 4.5GB of disk space, which ex­pands to 19GB on play­back. In its unadul­ter­ated state you get a nicely playable Yamaha C7 grand pi­ano. The fun starts though when you use the main soft­ware page to select one of the 45 prepa­ra­tion tech­niques. Th­ese can be as­signed per note, and with the op­tion of us­ing lay­ers to cre­ate two dif­fer­ent treat­ments per note (each with sep­a­rate con­trol of level, tun­ing and en­ve­lope). Prepa­ra­tions in­clude screws, erasers, coins, clothes­pins, sticks and oth­ers. Strings can be played nor­mally, via the pi­ano mech­a­nism, or with a mal­let, plec­trum, bow or Ebow. There is also scope for in­tro­duc­ing fin­ger-muted har­mon­ics and move­ment based per­for­mance ef­fects.

The big ques­tion is per­haps how use­ful this might be to the av­er­age FM reader – and with a price of 399 eu­ros this is cer­tainly not a ca­sual pur­chase. For pure ex­per­i­men­tal­ists this is a very pow­er­ful and en­gag­ing tool, and fans of Tom Waits (who in turn was heav­ily in­flu­enced by Harry Partch), will also en­joy the twisted per­cus­sive tonal­i­ties it of­fers. How­ever, it is also ca­pa­ble of cre­at­ing new, and very mu­si­cal, tones that stretch far be­yond the con­ven­tional pi­ano, par­tic­u­larly when com­bined with ef­fects. Bruce Aisher www.uvi.net

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