The piano machine was first designed at Goldsmiths, University of London in collaboration with Konstantin Leonenko in 2017. It was commissioned for use by Ensemble Explore at the 2017 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, with funding from the English Arts Council, and was first employed by the ensemble in the composition Tracer la lune d'un doigt. It uses physical computing technology to send voltage to a set of small acrylic "fingers", one for each note of the piano to be played. These very thin "fingers" dangle between the strings of the piano, such that they laterally hit the adjacent strings when current is sent to them, but do not otherwise touch the strings, such that ordinary playing techniques may still be employed.
The first version, which Ensemble Explore has now employed in a series of compositions, was controlled entirely by midi-messaging from a keyboard with aftertouch for expressive volume control, while a new version - created in 2019- employs higher-level processes and uses a pedal and other controllers for additional expressive control. The new piano machine was created for Imagining the Analytical Engine, a special event dedicated to the life and work of Ada Lovelace, on 2 November 2019 at the Barbican, as part of their Life Rewired series. The composition commissioned for that occasion, Ada's Song, was premièred by Marta Fontanais-Simmons and the Britten Sinfonia, conducted by William Cole.
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