By John Keston and Piotr Szyhalski
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  • Post-prepared Piano is an exploration of non-musical processes as methods in constructing new sounds. By juxtaposing virtuosic piano performance with the crudeness of hammering nearly 800 nails, a vast territory of what may be considered artistic practice is outlined. Discovery of new pathways in that territory lies at the heart of this project. In its final form the work functions as a residue of an intricate process during which sound travels through multiple realms: the physical and non-physical, the high and low technologies, the sophisticated and proletarian materials.

    A short piece composed and performed by Keston is converted into a spectral analysis digital image that visualizes the timbre, transients, frequency, and amplitude of the recording. The digital print of that process constitutes the upper half of the installation. This visual record of musical performance is then manually mapped by Szyhalski and re-rendered on the gallery wall through a labor intensive process of materializing multiple, individual frequency bands. The new object is then photographed and converted back into sound. The resulting audio sounds like a haunting echo of the original piece, but is warped and contorted in unusual ways.

  • This combined version of the original piano recording and the rendered nails and twine installation illustrates the differences in color and texture along side the similarities of cadence and pitches between the two works.

    While listening you might recognized that the frequencies match for brief moments and then wander off again as tiny flaws and variable slackness in the twine shape the hand synthesized sonic textures.

    Note: some of the transients in the sound rendered from the nails and twine were adjusted to make up for a slight offset that was caused by the photographic compositing process. A composite of two photographs was necessary to get enough resolution in the image of the nails and twine to produce the new sound as accurately as possible.


  • This animated sequence illustrates the relationship between the imagery and sound of both the
    spectral analysis and the nails and twine reconstruction.
  • About the Artists

    Piotr Szyhalski and John Keston worked together on the featured 2012 Northern Spark project, In Habit: Life in Patterns in collaboration with the dance company Aniccha Arts. Szyhalski directed and participated in the piece that included dance, projected imagery, ephemeral screen printed motifs in rice flower, and eight channel music that surrounded the audience. Keston composed and performed the music. The piece was performed repeatedly for almost nine hours during the Northern Spark festival and will be performed in New York, June 2013. Szyhalski has also advised Keston on several of his projects including the interactive touch screen installation, Voice Lessons (2012) featured on Wired.com and CreativeApplications.net.

    Piotr Szyhalski (Labor Camp)
    John Keston (AudioCookbook)
    More about Post-prepared Piano