Velocity 0: Player Piano
Velocity 0: IN C/hack

9th March - 9th April 2017,

Opening 9th March 6pm-10pm

10th Biennale Internationale du Design de Saint-Etienne

Cité du Design,
3 Rue Javelin Pagnon, 42000 Saint-Étienne, France

Player Piano is a revisitation of American writer Kurt Vonnegut’s 1952 debut novel. Set in a fully automated future, the book is a meditation on the meaning and purpose of life in a work-free environment in which labor has become the domain of machines.

Whereas Vonnegut’s text is a dark parable illustrating the crushing effects of mechanization on human freedom and culture, this exhibition seeks to reframe the question of a post-labor society in historical terms.

The only thing more ancient than the dream of liberation from work is the dread of automation itself; yet stitching together fragments of this panorama of human endeavor another vision is possible – a civilization simultaneously liberated from the cults of labor, technology and ownership.

Within the framework of the hypothetical island of Abraxa generated by the architectural and research studio Space Caviar, Charli Tapp automated a Yamaha CP-80 Grand Piano.

Produced by Yamaha during the 70s, the CP80 was a unique Grand Piano developed for touring.
Using 88 piezo pickups similar to those of an electric guitar, it produced a hybrid sound right on the edge of the end of the analog era, premising the dawn of the digital one.
At 121 kg, such untimeliness led to its rapid fall into oblivion once lighter and more technologically advanced alternatives were developed.
In and of itself, it’s a relic of a transitional age during which physicality seemingly left place to digitality.

As so, it was only fitting to venture with it at the forefront of a new pivotal point where the realm of automation begins.
Programmed using the seminal piece of modular music “IN C” by Terry Riley as a basis for its understanding of music, the instrument is left to its own device during the month-long run of the biennial., interpreting a never-ending piece of generative music spanning outwards from the work of Riley.

In collaboration with Space Caviar, within the pavilion PLAYER PIANO: A SUBJECTIVE ATLAS OF A LANDSCAPE OF LABOUR (Saint-Etienne International Design Biennial 2017, France), Velocity 0 behaves as an acoustic landscape production engine.

The pavilion features a rotational light beam, and an aerial structure of 50m diameter suspending 22 still frame movies portraying different locations around the world.

Connected to an array of speakers suspended in the air on a circular axis, each octave of the piano is isolated and projected in different areas of the space.

The resulting quantized-repartition tinkers with the expectation of the listener. 

Lonely tunes generated by Velocity 0 are not only an exploration in Sound but also one in Space.

The experience offers the audience a chance to witness at various points in time and space the iterative composing of the piano, getting lost and finding its way again into a continuous output of music.

VELOCITY 0 : hack/IN C
For the closing of the Saint-Etienne International Design Biennial (2017, France), and as a reverence to its programming, Velocity 0: hack/IN C is to be performed on Velocity 0.

During the occurrence, the very piece of music used to program Velocity 0 will be played on it with a twist.

In its 1964 score “IN C”, Terry Riley wrote the first manifest for freewill music.

At its core, performable by a non-limited number of performers, 56 musical modules were to be played in succession and at the discretion of each participating musician resulting in an ever-unique assemblage of structural melodies.

Following 60 years of faithful interpretation, the time had come to mess with the original piece.

Parting way from the original instruction manual, all of the modules are to be played at once on Velocity 0’s keybed, such as if each octave would represent a unique musician, the only human-action being that of physically altering the sustain of the harmonic table, transposing In C in a new age of machine-enable art.