Historically, the conventional understanding of the classical pianist was almost exclusively confined to playing on the keyboard. This conception has been expanded and challenged in recent years with the emergence of a new repertoire that has expanded piano practice, transforming the pianist into a multi-skilled instrumentalist. This expansion has taken a number of directions, including special instrumental techniques focussing on other aspects of the instrument (e.g. strings, frame, pedals, body); work engaging technology with electronics (fixed medium or live) and computer; works that involve spoken and theatrical components; and works that involve dance like physical movement.
These new approaches raise numerous issues, questions and challenges for the musician that have deeply transformed piano performance practice, not least that such hybrid works often draw attention to the music making body. The seminal piece that reflects this new approach is Karlheinz Stockhausen’s 1959/60 “Kontakte” duo for piano and percussion with electronic sounds, in which the pianist also plays percussion.
The aim of this practise-based research is to enhance understanding of performance practice of works engaging a new conception of the pianist performer within the field of new music supported by (1) investigating the creative motivations behind composers making such work; and (2) analysing the compositions themselves. The findings from each of these areas will be assimilated to form a broader picture. The research will engage existing compositions that reflect these issues and a series of newly commissioned works in order to follow the live creative process step by step.