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Uncanny Valley : Variations and Theme for pianoforte

by Nicholas Vines (2011)

Score Sample

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Audio Sample

Performance by Zubin Kanga from the CD Piano inside out

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Piano inside out


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Piano inside out / Zubin Kanga.

Library shelf no. CD 2651 [Not for loan]

Uncanny Valley


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Uncanny Valley : Variations and Theme for pianoforte / Nicholas Vines.

Library shelf no. 786.2/VIN 7 [Available for loan]

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Work Overview

Uncanny Valley is the exploration of a strange perceptual phenomenon in the fields of robotics and animation. Common sense suggests as a representation of a human being becomes more and more 'human-like', we have a more and more positive response to it. At a certain point, however, where the resemblance is especially close, our reactions in fact switch suddenly to discomfort, disquiet or even revulsion. There are many possible explanations for this, but the general idea is leading up to the 'uncanny valley', we see a very good estimation of a person, while in the valley itself, our perception is actually of a 'real' human being, but with something wrong or off. To me, this trajectory immediately suggested a variation form, where the theme is a bona fide, healthy person and the variations - an industrial robot, a humanoid robot, a stuffed animal, and a corpse, zombie and bunraku puppet combined - facsimiles of varying quality. Since the piece traces progress towards, descent into, and ascent out of the uncanny valley, the variations (atypically) precede the theme.

Work Details

Year: 2011

Instrumentation: Piano.

Duration: 18 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Professional, new-music specialist

Contents note: 1. An industrial robot -- II. A humanoid robot -- III. A stuffed animal -- IV-V-VI. A corpse, a zombie, a bunraku puppet -- VII. A healthy person.

Dedication note: Dedicated to Zubin Kanga

First performance: by Zubin Kanga at Piano: Inside/Out (Canberra) (RR3, ANU School of Music) on 22 Jul 2011


Resonate article: Insight: Hipster Zombies from Mars by Nicholas Vines

Resonate article: 2012 Art Music Awards - comments by judging panels by Australian Music Centre

Performances of this work

23 Nov 2012: at Stephen Drury Piano Recital #2 (The New Hall, Sydney Grammar School). Featuring Stephen Drury.

21 Nov 2012: at Stephen Drury Piano Recital #1 (The New Hall, Sydney Grammar School). Featuring Stephen Drury.

18 Nov 2011: at Generations (Sydney Grammar School). Featuring Zubin Kanga.

29 Jul 2011: at Zubin Kanga in recital (South Melbourne Town Hall). Featuring Zubin Kanga.

24 Jul 2011: at Piano: Inside/Out (Newcastle) (Stuart & Sons Showroom (Newcastle)). Featuring Zubin Kanga.

22 Jul 2011: at Piano: Inside/Out (Canberra) (RR3, ANU School of Music). Featuring Zubin Kanga.

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