Mapping Australia (2014)

A multimedia piano performance

With found footage of Australia’s cartography practices in the 1960s; exploring the piano as geographic territory.

For piano, electronics and
video score

7-8 minutes


Link to online journal article about the work

Performance Instructions:

Materials needed

  • A grand piano
  • Shredded bamboo (wok cleaner)
  • Rubber mallet
  • Wooden mallet (use reverse end of mallet – a thick smooth surface) – Let the weight of the mallet determine the pressure on the piano and it’s strings rather then applying additional pressure
  • Small personal fan (with nylon material attached to the blades)
  • Earphones (and a small portable device to play music from, like a smartphone)
  • Lapel microphone (DPA 4061)
  • Laptop or media device (for the performer to play and view the video score)
  • Mbox or audio device (with USB cable)
  • Powered speaker
  • Cables

Video equipment:

  • Video projector (a video of an altered version of the video score is projected alongside a live feed from inside the piano). This video can be found here.
  • HD camera (pointing inside the piano with the entire piano in frame as a starting position). The camera operator is to follow instructions spoken through headphones. These instructions include: following the left or right hand of the performer, being still, zooming to close-up or wide shot, blur, focus or creating a shaky handheld motion. This audio score can be found here.
  • External computer (running video software which projects the live feed and the altered video score as a split screen) – the Jitter patch can be found here. Video hardware is needed to link up the HD camera with the external computer.

A technical diagram can be found here. But finding ways of simplifying  the setup is encouraged.

 

All these objects and their modifications can be provided by the composer.

 


 Video Score

Sustain pedal applied throughout: Example here

A timeline paper version of the video score can be found here

Video score with sound and 3 seconds preview screen


 

Video Scoring Instructions

Below are 3 videos which explain how to read the video score, along with video examples of live interactions with the score. The footage comes from the archival video Mapping Australia (1966). These 3 videos form the basis of the piece: Pencil On Map, Rock Pick Hitting Rock & Map Engraving (with falling tree footage).

(These are not complete renditions of what the performance would be. They are for instructional purposes only).

(1) Wooden Mallet – Pencil On Map

Make contact with piano using the wooden mallet when the man’s pencil touches the map.

Copy the movement of the pencil and hand orientation as it moves along the map as well as it’s position in the frame of the video. Alternate between the two or do one or the other.

(2) Rubber Mallet On Stress Bars – Rock Pick Hitting Rock

Hit the centre stress bar with rubber mallet when the rock pick hits the hard rock and cracks.

 

(3) Bamboo On Strings – Map Engraving (with tree falling footage)

The bamboo touches the strings when the map engraver touches the surface.
Copy the movements of the engraver.


 

Zones

The piano is broken up into 13 different zones. The video score instructs which zone a current action is to be performed. The player must move to the assigned zone and perform the action. The scale of the video is to be seen as relative to the size of the zone. Imagine that the video screen is stretched to the size of that given zone. Estimate as best as possible.

Zones on the pianoExamples of labeling zones on the piano


Earphones

Earphones are placed in the strings of the piano. The earphones contain the audio from the video Mapping Australia, which is constantly playing and is activated when the Lapel mic moves over it.

photo-1

The audio file below is what is played from the earphones (above). This is played throughout the entire performance. It needs to be loud enough so it is clearly picked up by the lapel mic but barely heard (if at all) when room is quiet with no Lapel mic on.

Upload this track to a portable device to play out of the earphones.


This video showcases gestures using the fan, the lapel mic and the above recording through the earphones.

Fan, paper and voice recordings


Preparations

Preparations

 


 

Lapel Microphone – DPA 4061

A Lapel mic is attached to the left hand (L.H) of the pianist using velcro. One around the upper arm and one around the base of the index finger.

Mic in handThe performer is instructed to move their L.H across the piano in various ways (see below). Sound is picked up inside the piano and is played through a speaker. A single speaker is positioned in the centre of the stage facing the audience.

Be careful not to cup your hand over the mic or cover it inside the piano as it will feed back. Keep hand open to avoid this.

The Lapel mic has five movement instructions:

1.  Follow (follow where the other hand is moving and the sound it is creating).
2.  Off (take mic away).
3.  Wave like motion near R.H. object (wave mic towards and away from the object making sound by the right hand (R.H) – so the sound fades in and out). Two varying rates are used which are notated below.
4. Wave like motion near earphones (wave mic towards and away from the earphones playing the Mapping Australia audio track -The same two varying rates apply (below).
5. Lapel Mic with instrument (L.H) in the same hand.

The two variations of wave like hand motions are:

 Lapel Mic instructions


Sheet Music

Sheet music is also given to the performer in addition to the video score (see below).

  • The sheet music is a rework of the music featured in the original film by Scottish born Australian composer Robert Hughes (1912 – 2007).
  • The music has been transcribed and notes and phrases have been removed leaving behind only a trace (like a rubbed out line or a fading of the driving lyrical trajectory of the music). The duration of where notes fall remains the same as the original.
  • The video score instructs when to play the sheet music, which bar to start on and the dynamic at which to play it.
  • Play the sheet music when instructed to do so and for duration it is displayed on the screen.


End of performance instructions


You can also read an online journal article written about this work: http://cerenem.ricercata.org/articles/mapping_australia/page01.html

Click here for the full documentary with background information

Click here to see my video sketch process and notes