Pianist, inventor and performer Sarah Nicolls developed her unique ‘Inside-Out Piano’ to explore the belly of the instrument and to coax out some of its hidden sounds. In this solo show, she explores the extraordinary unexpected characteristics of the instrument, moving it around the stage to gradually reveal her parallel journey into motherhood. See this monumental piano in surprising motion, hear the beautiful melodies and textures of Sarah’s piano-songs mixed with stories of creativity, and contemplate the moments of life where everything seems to stand still.
‘I built this piano because over the last 20 years I have increasingly been asked by composers to play inside the piano – directly on the strings, soundboard and so on. The first pieces using these techniques were written nearly 100 years ago, so it seemed about time we tried to make these effects more comfortable for the pianist and more interesting to look at for the audience. The happy by-product is that we get to see the workings of the instrument. Also I think this is the grand piano of the future, fitting into modern homes much more easily! This prototype is part of a long-term research project, in which I hope to create a lightweight, foldable piano that retains all of the acoustic properties of a traditional instrument.’ Sarah Nicolls
‘With its extraordinary, complicated anatomy confronting the audience, Nicolls played a soundtrack of her own composition that was contemporary and innovative without sacrificing the generous, arching drama of classical style. …. The depiction of the absurdity to be found in combining the roles of pianist and mother could not have been delivered with more acuity than it was in Nicolls’ physical work.
‘The personal narrative was one striking feature. The transformation of piano from percussion to string instrument, from imposing musical apparatus to child’s plaything created something special indeed.’ Brighton Argus
Touring to: Oxford Contemporary Music (North Wall, 28 Nov), Gulbenkian Theatre, Canterbury (3 Dec), South Street Arts Centre, Reading (4 Dec), Barber Institute, Birmingham (19 Feb), Colchester Arts Centre (20 Feb), York Concerts (27 Feb), and Cheltenham Festival (date tbc).
Created and performed by Sarah Nicolls
Dramaturg Lou Cope
Movement Director Janine Fletcher
Script Editor Becca Ellson
Lighting Designer Chris Umney
Sound Designer Simon Hendry
Additional advice from Gemma Paintin
Sarah Nicolls is a UK-based experimental pianist, at the forefront of innovations in piano performance. She works with interactive technologies to augment the acoustic piano with visceral live performances. She commissions collaborative new works with composers and also invented the ‘Inside-out Piano’, a sculptural feast of an instrument played in Moments of Weightlessness.
Sarah is a frequent soloist, recently performing on the PRSF New Music Biennial and Matthew Herbert’s 20 Pianos project. Sarah has given world premieres with the London Sinfonietta including Larry Groves’ Piano Concerto and Richard Barrett’s Mesopotamia. She is regularly broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and features on several CDs.
Sarah is a Senior Lecturer at Brunel University. She writes about live electronics and compositional collaborations. She is the Artistic Director of BEAM Festival and Music Chair for the New Interfaces for Musical Expression Conference: NIME 2014.