Sacrilege possibly, but in this post we’re going to write about pianos rather than guitars. Last time, in Post 61 we introduced Muzicodes, an approach to embedding musical triggers within musical scores so that, when successfully played, they launch various digital interactions. In order to demonstrate the potential of this approach to create deliver new musical experiences we teamed up with composer and pianist Maria Kallionpää. Inspired by the idea of bringing elements of computer games to classical music composition, and also by the potential of Muzicodes, Maria composed Climb!, a non-linear and interactive piano duet for human and Disklavier piano.
The Disklavier is a self-playing piano that physically moves it own keys in order to mechanically play music that is sent to it via MIDI. Maria employed this unusual instrument to compose a piece in which a human pianist battles the piano, whose keys independently move between their fingers. Climb! is a non-linear work through which the pianist can follow different routes as they gradually ascend a metaphorical mountain from basecamp to summit. At various points they encounter musical challenges (muzicodes) that must be successfully played for them to continue along their chosen path. If they fail a challenge, they are bumped onto another route. The pianist also encounters various musical obstacles and events along the way – falling stones, a bear, being attacked by birds and a hallucination to name a few – which are represented by the Disklavier playing its own parts. Finally, Muzicodes also trigger projected visuals that show progress through the work on a large screen and control an interactive programme displayed on audience members’ mobile phones.
The video gives an overview of Climb!, including recordings from its premiere performance at the Djanogly Recital Hall at Nottingham. Altogether an unusual and we think compelling demonstration of how Muzicodes can enable new forms of musical experience – no matter what instruments they are delivered on!