Concordia Live and
Interactive Electroacoustic
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Hexagram-Concordia Centre for Research
Creation in Media Arts and Technologies

in collaboration with

Concordia University - Department of Music

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Per Bloland - The Electromagnetically-Prepared Piano and its Compositional Implications

The Electromagnetically Prepared Piano device allows for direct control of piano strings through the use of an array of electromagnets. Created several years ago at Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), the EMPP differs significantly from previous instruments based on similar principles in that each magnet is controlled by an arbitrary external audio signal, resulting in a much higher degree of control over pitch and timbre. The resultant sounds range from simple sine tones through complex, often ethereal textures. For the most part, these timbres are more evocative of electronically synthesized sonorities than of the acoustic piano strings from which they emanate. This paper has three primary goals: 1) to examine the compositional implications of such a hybrid instrument, 2) to describe several of the compositions that have utilized the device, and 3) to provide a detailed mechanical description for others who may wish to experiment with such a device.

A previous paper (Berdahl and Backer) has already described many of the technical aspects of the electromagnets and their interactions with metal strings. This paper will take a more compositionally oriented approach, describing some of the resulting timbres and the roles they have played in several compositions, and discussing practical issues of implementing and utilizing such a device. In doing so, the author hopes to describe in more general terms the applications to which the electromagnets have been applied thus far.

For more information, and to hear examples and compositions that utilize the device, please visit:



CLIEC 2011 - Saturday, March 26th 2011
Concordia University - Montreal, Canada