Digital Audio Album
Music of the Piano Mill 2018 / Lynette Lancini, Louise Denson, & Vanessa Tomlinson.
Featured Australian works
|Mill Life (2018) — site specific live performance
|9 mins, 45 sec.
|megaMammal — site specific live performance
|9 mins, 50 sec.
|Lucy and Bubbles — site specific live performance
|13 mins, 19 sec.
An embodied Piano Mill is given voice by composers Lynette Lancini, Louise Denson, and Vanessa Tomlinson, who imagine three diverse scenarios.
In megaMammal, Lynette Lancini conceives of the 16 pianists as a single giant organism, musicking together as one. She creates a vibrant tapestry of Britannia, Australiana, and even Russian themes, which are unified by a rolling four-chord vamp and mesmerizing vocal refrain (sung by Merinda Dias-Jayasinha and the composer). The work is framed with 19th century colonial references, from Waltzing Matilda to God Save the Queen, and ends with a good old fashioned shoot-out, bringing megaMammal to a surprising close.
Machine rhythms form the basis for Louise Denson's driving Mill Life, in which the Piano Mill seems to come to life as a working factory. Denson painstakingly transcribed the repetitive clanking and whirring of industrial machines sourced from archival recordings (namely the "Boynton & Plummer Travelling Head Shaper" and the "East Broad Top Railroad Steam Engine"). Percussive effects and extended techniques - knocking on railings, strumming and striking the strings of the pianos - complement intricate, syncopated rhythms and bluesy clusters, which are orchestrated in exquisite detail.
In Lucy and Bubbles, Vanessa Tomlinson presents a suite of musical vignettes that seem to draw us into an imaginary story. In part 1 we hear knocking and calling (the 16 pianists call out each others' names at random). In part 2 pulsing rhythms appear, build, are layered, and eventually climax in an incessant tritone chord repeating with "punk rock" intensity. In part 3 the mood relaxes into a dreamscape featuring the plucked tones of 2 string pianos. Finally a minimalist waltz (shades of Philip Glass?) emerges, develops, chromatically shifts, bifurcates, develops some more, until the pianists once again call out - this time searching for the elusive protagonist of the surrealist narrative, Lucy (and her bubbles).
The Piano Mill is a steampunk tower in the forest of New South Wales purpose built to house 16 vintage upright pianos. Created by architect Bruce Wolfe, the structure is a building and fantastical musical instrument all in one. The Piano Mill has been acknowledged with a 2018 World Architecture Award (Culture - Completed Buildings) and a 2017 AMC APRA Art Music Award (Excellence in Experimental Music).
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