NARRATOR: Check out Lucy Raven’s player piano! If you’re lucky you might even hear it play music. Player pianos are old-fashioned instruments that play pre-programmed music by themselves.
Raven worked with another Biennial artist, musician Jason Moran, to program the piano. It plays the same song, “Dance Yrself Clean,” three different ways. Do you think it sounds weird to hear different kinds of music coming from an old-fashioned instrument?
Raven is interested in the differences between old and new technology. Here, she talks about how a player piano works:
LUCYRAVEN: There’s basically holes punched into paper, which run on a scroll through this pneumatic pumping system and the air is pumped through the holes. And so when you hear a sound, that’s air being pumped through a hole. There’s either a hole or there’s not, so there’s not a lot of nuance with how something’s played. That said, you can adjust the way the holes are, to create different sorts of volume levels.
There’s a moment in the longest version of the song, the transcription of “Dance Yrself Clean,” where you see a lot of keys going at once. It’s about five minutes in, and it’s actually more keys than two hands could play, and that’s one of the great things that you can do with the player piano.
NARRATOR: Did you get to hear the piano playing? We thought you might also like to hear the original version of “Dance Yrself Clean” by LCD Soundsystem. Please tap the screen.