Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program

Studio Arts


Judy Pfaff

Abstract/Artist's Statement

A mid-century player piano retrofitted into a switchboard. 11,000 feet of wire, linking 88 devices around a six thousand square foot barn, back to the 88 keys of the piano. Fans, lights, drills, and saws connected, each with its own note. And lastly a piano player to bring it to life. As each note rings out it lights a bulb or drives a motor. Not a new instrument, but a new experience of the piano, a visual translation of musical interaction.

In this way I hope that I might present to the viewer an entry into some of the experience that I have with playing pianos in general. I am not a pianist by any means, but I do love to play the piano. Letting my fingers move across the keyboard, finding notes and embellishing chords, is a great mode of meditation for me, for which I have taken advantage of the Chapel and Bard Hall for the last four years. It was my aim that each light bulb, drill, and fan would serve as a visual marker of the exploration I embark on at any piano. As notes unfold from this piano, they are accompanied and bolstered by each electronic device. Not only is each note aurally unique, as they have always been, but now each note comes with its own function, furthering the potential scope and impact of any given key.
Lastly, through watching the piano player play the piano, or by playing it oneself, I hope that the distance and difference between the piano and the player becomes more thoroughly illuminated. There are a great many things that the piano, the machine itself, is capable of doing, ways in which it enables it's user to create, and this is brought into relief by the person playing, as they themselves are capable certain things, excelling at some and distorting others. Each individual brings their own style and personality to the act of playing, which results in an entirely different event, even if the notes were entirely the same. This installation is an attempt to provide an environment for the extension and inspection of this dichotomy. As I hope my title illuminates, I hope to bring into question which party is controlling which. Is it the pianist playing the piano, a passive entity, or can it also be the piano allowing or forcing the player to act or perform in its own right.

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