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Stephen Scott and the Bowed Piano Ensemble

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STEPHEN SCOTT AND THE BOWED PIANO ENSEMBLE

Take the 200-year-old tradition of piano music for four hands, multiply it by, oh, two and a half, and cross it with Henry Cowell and John Cage's experiments on the pianoforte's inner regions, otherwise known as prepared piano. When the room stops spinning, what you might end up with is Stephen Scott. For 20 years, Scott has devoted himself to the development of the piano as a musical resource, mining the idea of a whole group performing on a single instrument and expanding the repertoire of sounds one might hear emanating from under its lid. Piano preparation has the rep of being noisy and cranky, but Cage's early pieces were often purposely lovely and gamelanlike. Scott explores similarly exotic territory, preferring echoey sonorities and consonant harmonies over grating and dissonance. In the hour-long Vikings of the Sunrise, which has recently been released on the New Albion label and which Scott and his Colorado Springs-based ensemble will perform in its entirety, the ten members hunch over the piano's guts like a surgical team. Nylon filaments are laced through select strings and pulled like dental floss to mimic the violin or cello, and rosined sticks are used to stimulate the strings in more abrasive ways. Sometimes the metal strings are struck and scraped with the sustain pedal down for a shimmering, atmospheric, orchestral effect that's hard to imagine coming from a single instrument. An extensive tone poem based on "themes of navigation, exploration and discovery in the Pacific," the piece's looping repetitions and beatific arrangements at times verge on New Agey. But its gradualness and spaciness might well appeal to the ambient and electronica crowds, assuming the prospect of listening to "classical" music on an acoustic instrument for 60 minutes isn't too foreign or frightening. Friday, 8 PM, auditorium, Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State; 312-344-7270 or 312-747-4850. JOHN CORBETT

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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