ICE’s residency at Roulette in December was not just about the launch of OpenICE! Education Director Jacob Greenberg and Production Director Ross Karre teamed up with video artist and ICElab collaborator Monica Duncan to expand ICE’s signature education program, The Listening Room, for a piano-centric event. Called “Hit, Pluck, and Strum,” the hour-long show for four-to-eight-year-olds explored the inside of the piano and how wacky musical notation can bring the sounds of the piano’s inner organs to life.
As the piano interior was projected by live video feed, Jacob began with a classic piece, Henry Cowell’s Aeolian Harp, which features beautiful strumming of piano strings. A more elaborate demonstration was George Crumb’s Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusic (A Little Midnight Music), which has the pianist activate piano harmonics, play with mallets on the metal beams, and pluck individual strings. Ross came over to show how much can be done (gently!) with percussion mallets inside the piano. Then, the students all tried their own hands inside the instrument, with each technique: hit, pluck, and strum!
After the two Icicles improvised to accompany a Charlie Chaplin short film, students started to write their graphic compositions on paper inside the outline of a piano. This was then superimposed on the live feed of the piano, so Jacob and Ross could play literally in the areas of the instrument where the students wrote their shapes and symbols. As always, some interpretation was involved, but it was great to translate the student pieces so directly into a performance!
The kids were all great, and we hope to be back at Roulette soon to move The Listening Room in still more directions!