A piece of music featuring piano as you may have never heard it before has won its composer an international prize.De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)’s Professor of Composition, John Young, took the first prize at Musica Nova 2018 for his work Magnetic Resonance (2017). DMU Young-280Musica Nova celebrates composers of electroacoustic music and has run a competition every year since 1969 to find the best new works in the genre. Professor Young’s piece uses a magnetic resonator piano, which uses electro magnets to vibrate the piano strings, producing a sustained, ethereal sound from the chords. The instrument was designed by Andrew McPherson at Queen Mary University, London, and Professor Young’s composition was written for pianist Xenia Pestova.The magnetic resonator is fitted over the strings of a grand piano, allowing pianists to create tones which last far longer than normal, overlaying notes and creating what Dr McPherson describes as an “immersive sound field”.Professor Young, of DMU’s MTI2 Institute for Sonic Creativity, said: “Writing for the magnetic resonator piano was quite an amazing experience. I made several visits to Andrew's QMUL studio to experiment with it in order to understand how I might use it. It really changes the the way you approach the keyboard, because even very light touches on the keys can produce sustained, singing tones - and that meant finding alternative ways to structure the notation read by the pianist.
"As well as the sustained sounds - which make the piano function more like an organ - the instrument also can play like a normal piano and also produce very delicate effects, revealing beautiful cascading harmonics that would normally be hidden in the overall sound of the piano. I also extended the instrument's naturally immersive sensations with an even more immersive field of digital surround sound.”The instrument was used for the first time in a mainstream film soundtrack this year by Disney in this year’s hit family film Winnie The Pooh.DMU’s MTI2 research team is an acknowledged leader in studies of electroacoustic music and sonic art. The Musica Nova competition features entries from 26 countries. It is held in Prague and has two categories, for tape music and another for vocals and instruments.
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