Sounds of the Past and Insights for the Future: How Museum Artifacts Can Inspire Musical Creativity
I joined Ingenium last Fall as the 2022-23 Research Fellow in Sound and Science, working with curators and international researchers on a database project called Sound and Science: a Database for Sources on the History of Acoustics. As a pianist, I have always had an interest in the study of sound; however, this project led me to re-evaluate, reconsider, and think more creatively about the acoustic elements of the different instruments I play and the different performance spaces I perform in.
One of the most significant results of this project was how it drew my attention to different approaches to the study of sound. By exploring and studying various acoustic objects—from resonators (see photo above) to stethoscopes, and from tonometer sets to tuning forks—I gained new perspectives on the possibilities of playing the piano that extend beyond traditional musical practices.
For example, I gained a deeper appreciation for the work of Helmut Lachemann, who uses unconventional techniques like tapping his fingernails on the surface of the piano keys to achieve different acoustic and musical effects. This led me to consider how I might also incorporate a wider range of expression and creativity into my musical interpretations as a pianist.
Photograph of the author performing.
Moreover, taking part in the Sound and Science project encouraged me to reconsider my perception of different performance spaces and their relationship to the musical instruments and sounds played in those spaces. I am now more aware of how important it is to consider the physical characteristics of the spaces in which I play, in addition to the physical qualities of the instruments I play, as factors that can creatively benefit my artistic interpretations. This has motivated me to enrich my performances by exploring thoughtful and creative connections between my musical interpretations and the environments in which I perform.
Finally, the project motivated me to think more about the significance of interdisciplinary collaboration. Through the study of acoustic objects, I saw the potential for more creative partnerships among composers, sound artists, and multimedia performers.
Acoustic objects are like bridges which connect music to other artistic practices, and which open new paths for collaboration.
In sum, participating in the Sound and Science project provided me with unexpected insights into my practice as a pianist and performer. The project inspired me to think about new ways of exploring acoustic objects, increased my awareness of acoustic environments, and encouraged me to develop a better appreciation of the relation between objects, spaces, and the production of sound in music. My participation in this project has undoubtedly influenced my artistic practice and will continue to shape my approach to performance in the future.
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