“So I started thinking about what I should burn that might really resonate,” Lockwood says, and his mind went to the London council’s “piano graveyard” where they dumped instruments that were beyond repair. or had been replaced in a living room by one of those state-of-the-art televisions.
At an arts festival on the quayside in Chelsea, she set up the piano, inserted an old asbestos-wrapped microphone hooked up to a tape recorder, and lit a small flame in it.
“The recording was totally unnecessary because people (at the event) were talking at the top of their voices,” she recalls. “But it sounded beautifully. There are resonant spaces inside the instrument; when a piece of the structure collapses, it sounds good.
They burned another that night, in the dark.
“I had no idea it would be so stunningly beautiful,” Lockwood says. “I saw colors in the flames depending on the varnish: purple, green, orange and of course red. It’s the way the flames travel through the instrument and the uncertainty that you never know where they will emerge.
“It very often happens that [the audience] sags in a kind of intense silence, which is pleasant to feel. ”
The play has been regularly performed around the world – and, Lockwood laughs, regularly misperformed.
“It always comes back [an idea] that I sought to make destructive incursions into Western culture. Really! I am a product of Western culture. The experiment was the original goal, nothing to do with destroying cultural icons, something people are only too ready to attribute to it.
But the piece acquired a new resonance over time. Those who saw the twin towers burn live on television, or shed a tear at the immolation of Notre-Dame, hear echoes in that fire.
And there’s Australia’s recent immolation.
“These piano events are like a kind of indirect and oblique reference to these enormous forces, which become overwhelming. Fires, floods, landslides, circling around us.
Only in Rising, hot piano will be played with two of his younger siblings, Piano Garden (1969) and Drowning at the Piano (1972). You can guess how they work.
Or go see them, of course. Even play them. And if you go to hot pianoLockwood gets a tip.
“Take potatoes wrapped in foil and just slide them near the pedals.”
hot piano5-8pm, June 10 at Birrarung Marr Lower Terrace.
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