Last year These New Puritans released Field Of Reeds, a stunning, neo–classical record that "bypasses any fads or fashions in today's music". Eight of the tracks on the LP featured a beautiful, otherworldly instrument called the Magnetic Resonator Piano. Basically, it's a repurposed Yamaha that allows you to play music without actually touching the keys. Instead, motion sensor technology detects your body movements and allows you to interact with a built-in electromagnetic field. You can adjust harmony, melody, brightness and pitch by moving around.
The MRP is now open to the public at These New Puritans's audio-visual installation, Magnetic Field, and will form the centrepiece of the band's upcoming performance at the Barbican. Queen Mary University lecturer Andrew McPherson had been working on the instrument for about five years before serendipity led him to These New Puritans: a student introduced him to Field of Reeds producer Graeme Sutton. The rest is electromagnetic-influenced history.
"I was looking for a new aspect to the piano, a new soundworld," he told us. "I'm interested in sounds from the perspective of composition," he told us, "but I find it very hard to write music on the piano. There is just so much history and so much amazing music that's been created over hundreds of years."
Within the piano are a series of magnets, one for each string of the piano. "It works in the same way as an ebow on a guitar," says Joe Daniel, organiser of the Magnetic Field exhibition. "It allows you to do strange things on a piano like bend the note. Any movements you hear are being created by an electromagnetic field."
The MRP is normally designed to be played traditionally (you know, with your hands), but a collaboration with a Philadelphia–based music professor called Jeff Gregorio led to the incorporation of the motion-sensor technology. To play the instrument, you stand in a designated area whilst loops created by These New Puritans' Jack Barnett play around you. If you move your right arm you control the harmony; your left controls the melody, and movements up and down control the brightness or pitch. It's all too easy to get lost in, and amazing fun. Here's our demo:
These New Puritans are playing at the Barbican on 17 April and the Magnetic Resonance Piano is available to play at Magnetic Field at 180 Strand until 19 April. thesenewpuritans.com/magnetic-field/
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