Melissa St. Pierre | Experimental Sound Studio | Experimental | Chicago Reader

Melissa St. Pierre All Ages Critic's Choice Recommended Soundboard

When: Sun., Nov. 8, 2 p.m. 2009

At some time or other, plenty of modern composers, from John Cage to Christian Wolff, have used prepared piano—that is, piano with various objects laid upon or wedged between the strings and dampers to modify the sound, which is sometimes created by playing the keys and sometimes by striking or plucking strings or other parts. But twentysomething Pittsburgher Melissa St. Pierre has made prepared piano her calling card. Her approach is heavily percussive and obviously meticulous: there's nothing vaguely aleatoric or improvised-sounding on her power-packed debut, Specimens (Table of the Elements/Radium, 2008). She weaves the alien clangs and clanks of her manipulations into propulsive, minimalistic, musical vignettes, with an assist from members of Milwaukee's Collections of Colonies of Bees, who add some electronic skitters and conventional percussion; the results suggest a hyperactive junkyard gamelan. St. Pierre performs solo here, as part of the inaugural weekend of the five-week-long Outer Ear Festival of Sound. After the show she'll conduct a prepared-piano workshop from 4 to 6 PM; tuition is $30, $25 for students and ESS members. Melissa St. Pierre also plays Monday with Technical Drawings at Links Hall. —Peter Margasak

Price: $10 suggested donation

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