The Ill-Tempered Piano – Signal To Noise Review

Signal To Noise talks about The Ill-Tempered Piano

Nicola Cipani’s ill-tempered piano is an instrument that is rarely played, hard to find and hauntingly beautiful. Neither the prepared piano (in the Cage tradition) nor the unprepared piano (in an orthodox, say Marian McPartland, manner), it’s what might be called an “unprepared piano”: an instrument not in any condition for a traditional concerto. Unprepared piano players are rare; pemaps the only other musician to make a name on the instrument is Australian Ross Bolleter of the World Association for Ruined Piano Studies (an institution which seems to have two members, Cipani not being the other), whose expenments on pianos left to decay and rot have been collected on the excellent 2006 Emanem release Secret Sandhills and Satellites. But with the unprepared piano, as with any per- fonmance, what counts is the singer, not the song. Each weathered keyboard must, like a handmade steel drum, be approached on its own terms to leam the idiosyncrasies of the instrument. Where Bolleter seems to strive for being as pianistic as possible—playing slow suites on his found detritus— Cipani seems to seek out the most off sounds he can find. The 24 brief tracks on The 111- Tempered Piano, recorded on found instruments in New Yorl< City, are achingly gorgeous. To say they often sound like a gamelan is something of a c1iché in writing about experimen- tal music (rather akin to “tastes Iike chicken”) but the melodie percussion of his improvisations makefor an unusual and wonderfullisten.

Kurt Gottschalk

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