Cosmologies for piano and three-dimensional electronics

Premiere performance at IRCAM LIVE, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, March 5th, 2020.

Alvise Sinivia, pianist, Manuel Poletti, computer music producer, Luca Bagnoli, sound engineer, Clément Cerles, recording engineer, François Vey, video artist. Work designed by Aaron Einbond with the support of the VERTIGO project as part of the STARTS program of the European Commission, based on technological elements from the Project OM7/om-spat.

According to theories of cosmic inflation, a fraction of a second after it began, the universe was the size of a grand piano. It has continued expanding ever since to form all observable matter, us included. What sounds inhabit this piano-world? In Cosmologies the pianist gradually creates his own reality, a sonic microcosm with found materials of contrasting textures and densities. Like a Foley artist or puppeteer, he reaches nearly invisibly inside the instrument to manipulate its metal, wood, and felt. His micro-choreography is magnified by a three-dimensional microphone, expanding to become larger than life as it is projected around the audience with an ambisonic loudspeaker array. The computer “learns” from the spatial presence of the piano and performer, as well as that of other acoustic instruments, to mimic these rich interactions of timbre and space. As the piano interior explodes out to the size of the concert hall, the listener is situated inside the virtual instrument to experience its secret inner life. In the work’s final moments, a glimpse of the reality outside the concert hall sneaks in, fusing the piano-world with our own.

The performance is preceded by an interactive installation, a contrasting movement, in which the piano is silent while the spatial microphone is tuned to the ambient sounds of the concert hall. The electronics respond with primordial sparks of sonic potential energy. The public is invited to explore the charged space before quietly taking their places as the pianist enters.