Digital Audio Album
Music of the Piano Mill 2019 / Steve Newcomb & Alistair Noble.
Featured Australian works
|Astronauts Aviary Antics — site specific live performance||Steve Newcomb||11 mins, 30 sec.|
Also includes: Tiangong/ Alistair Noble.
The 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Buddhist and Taoist philosophy inform the Piano Mill compositions of Steve Newcomb and Alistair Noble.
Steve Newcomb references a trip to the moon in his aptly titled Astronauts Aviary Antics. He creates starkly syncopated blips and beeps with staccato high C's (mostly out of tune, of course) on pianos and melodicas, suddenly contrasting them with calmer sustained tones that open out into a shimmering harmonic resonance. Later, rumbling bass tremolos swirl around, spinning faster and faster (until takeoff?). Newcomb makes special use of the Piano Mill's adjustable louvers, opening and closing them to change the acoustic and highlight the contrasts of different sections.
A cosmic sense is evoked by Alistair Noble in Tiangong. The composer points out that 'Tiangong' means Heaven Palace, and is a term used in traditional Chinese Buddhist and Taoist thinking, as well as being the name of a space station. He describes the work as a "quasi-concerto for cello and the Piano Mill," in which the passionate cello of Danielle Bentley is added to the contemplative tones of the 16 pianos. Noble treats the upper and lower floors of the Piano Mill as separate voices in a two-part counterpoint, and makes poignant use of space and resonance in Tiangong, particularly when the gently insistent chiming chords give way to lush sustained sonorities.
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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