Thursday, November 18

35 Piano Etudes

          for David Rakowski

On an otherwise empty stage, a grand piano stands with its lid fully open, the stool a few feet from the pedals. The pianist lid fully open, the stool a few feet from the pedals. The pianist enters, carrying a toy piano and scrunches under the body of the grand pianos with it, making him/herself as comfortable as possible.

The pianist, with a smile, acknowledges the audience and, using a white handkerchief, dusts off the keys of the toy piano. Then, he/she performs John Cage's 4'33" twice in succession. Between the two performances he or she may or may not improvise a brief statement explaining why the piece is being performed again.

The pianist approaches the piano cautiously, as though not knowing what it is. The lid is down, the keyboard is covered. The pianist taps various parts of the piano, testing its sounds.

Then with the briefest of glances at the audience he/she sits down on the stool, flips the tails of a tuxedo jacket he/she isn't wearing free of the stool, and, turning to the audience, announces he/she will play ___________.

He/she proceeds to do so, without opening the keyboard. When the piece is over, he/she rises, bows to the audience and leaves the stage.

The pianist comes on stage carrying a leash, which he/she attaches to the right-front leg of the piano. He/she then turns back toward the door by which he/she entered and starts forward. If the piano, like a recalitrant puppy, fails to move, the pianist drops the leash, goes to the stage-door and waves onto the stage another pianist who attaches a leash to the left-front leg of the piano. If the piano again fails to move, a third pianist is enlisted to help . . . and then a fourth, fifth, sixth, etc., if necessary, until the piano begins to move.

When the piano is finally moving, the assembled pianists walk it once in a circle around the stage. When at last it is back more or less in its original position, then unleash it and, applauding politely, say, "Good dog! Good boy!" Then, they pat its lid and file off the stage.

At any point in an otherwise normal recital (though not at the very beginning or end, or just before or after intermission), the pianist invites all of the members of the audience who care to do so to file onto the stage and play a single note on the piano. After all who care to participate have done so, he or she applauds the audience and invites its members to applaud themselves.

The formally dressed pianist comes on stage carrying a tool kit. He or she, during the first half of the concert, disassembles the grand piano while whistling tunes from various pieces by Chopin. Then, after intermission, the pianist returns to the stage, bows, and proceeds, in silence, to reassemble the piano. A piano-tuner then retunes the piano, and, as an encore, the pianist performs Schumann's Toccata in C.

Six or more pianos (depending on space available) are wheeled on stage and six (or more) pianists in gym togs and begin doing jumping jacks and push-ups near each of the pianos. Each of the pianists in turn stops exercising and plays a three- or four-minute etude of his or her choice as the others continue their jumping jacks and push-ups. When the last pianist has played and resumed exercising, the exercising continues for another four or five minutes, after which the exercising stops and the performers take their bows.

The soloist, struggling mightily, pushes his/her piano up a hill, perhaps one of the lows hills surrounding the Hollywood Bowl. When, at the crest of the hill, there is a moment's pause before the piano begins to roll back down, the pianist is able to rest briefly and savor his/her freedom, before trudging down to begin the task of pushing the piano up the hill, yet again.

Two nanopianos are inserted into the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN facility near the border of France and Switzerland. They are fired, molto vivace, in opposite directions, and when they collide the resultant tempi and fingerings are studied for any hints as to how music first came into being.

Prepare to perform an evening of Beethoven piano sonatas, but on a piano prepared for a performance of John Cage's Sonatas and Interludes. (A piano prepared by Aleck Karis is recommended.) The choice of Beethoven sonatas is yours.

Choosing individual movements from among the piano sonatas of Scriabin, Beethoven, Prokofiev, Bach, Chopin, Haydn, and Mozart, prepare an evening of piano sonatas. Rules: 1) three sonatas minimum, four maximum; 2) no composer represented more than once in each sonata or more than three times in the program as a whole.

The piano body, having been waterproofed, is filled with water, and then several varieties of fish are added. The more fish the better. Extremely sensitive underwater microphones (as many as possible) are suspended throughout the "tank." The sound is amplified by means of a rock concert-like array of speakers. The pianist plays a recital of his/her own choosing. Pieces having to do with water (e.g. Debussy, Ravel) are encouraged but not required. Large monitors enabling the audience to watch the fish as the recital proceeds would be a nice touch.



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