In the boom of the tingling strings
15 April - 10 May
In the boom of the tingling strings considers how domestic music-making can operate as a social activator, the role of the amateur musician within society and the cultural and social significance of the piano, as an emblem of social mobility and aspiration.
Historically, the piano could be seen as a signifier of the rise of the middle class. From its origins as entertainment for western aristocracy; to becoming the main source of music within the home until the early/mid 20th century, and most recently, ‘piano fever’ in China - as the popularity of piano lessons for the children of the expanding middle classes has reached unprecedented heights, with factories producing over 100,000 pianos a year.
Gillard is interested in the notion of ‘practice’ or ‘rehearsal’ in a musical context and revealing this private or solitary act in a more public domain. The installation Practice, invites professional and amateur musicians to use the gallery as a rehearsal space. At specific times throughout the exhibition, musicians of all abilities will practice non-amplified music, making use of the baby-grand piano, moveable seating and acoustic screens. Visitors are invited to view the rehearsals, pushing the normally solitary or closed activity into the realm of performance. The music played, with its mistakes, repetitions and slips, will become the soundtrack for the exhibition, shifting the meaning and relationships between works.
As Furniture, As Discipline is a song essay performed to camera by the artist’s mother, sisters and nieces. The melody is adapted from ‘I Love You Truly’, (Carrie Jacobs-Bond, 1913), the first song written es.by a woman to sell over 1 million copies of sheet music. The lyrics, written by the artist, explore female identity and piano playing - an activity that could be perceived as both oppressive and emancipative in the 19/20th century. The sentimental tune and the hymn-like quality of the lyrics contrasts with the modern context and obvious effort and discomfort of the performers. Both humorous and strange in its domesticity, the video poses questions about the place of amateur music making within the home, family relationships and gender-specific activities.
In Ear training/ Rhythm/ Notation/ Technique/ Improvisation/ Sight reading/ Memorization/ Repertoire, (8min), a male voice recites a monologue using piano pedagogy, autobiographical and fictional narratives, word chords and bad musical jokes.
A fragmented narrative combining casual reminiscences and informative texts addresses the dual function of a piano as both an instrument and an object, heavy with cultural and personal references.
The text works in the exhibition explore the relationship between writing, performance and music. Word Chord 1, 2, 3 function as both scores (playable on the piano) and concrete poems. Texts for a piano plinth expand on the relationship between the piano and musicians/non musicians, using fictional narratives, poetry and autobiographical referenc