Bowed Piano Ensemble

Stephen Scott plays the piano from the inside out. For his compositions, Scott and nine other musicians use homemade bows, popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, guitar picks, rubber plumbing tape, and other materials to manipulate the strings under the lid of the piano. They never touch the keys. National Public Radio's Morning Edition profiled Scott yesterday. The NPR site also features audio and video of Scott and his Bowed Piano Ensemble. I listened to the music first and it reminded me of the trance-inducing minimalism of Steve Reich. Turns out, Scott cites Reich as a big influence and studied music with him in Ghana. From the feature (photo by Peter Savage):

 Programs Morning Features 2008 Feb Bowedpiano300
To get a sense of what the bowed piano is, imagine a grand piano with the lid lifted off. Ten musicians crowd around, leaning over the innards of the instrument, like a team of surgeons performing an operation.

Scott says you won't find any traditional-looking bows – like the ones violinists use – in his ensemble.

"The primary sound is produced by a bow of nylon fish-line, which is rosined, and that's just threaded under the piano string and across it. There's another kind of bow, which is a stick of wood which has horse hair affixed to it, and that's rubbed against the strings to produce a short, percussive sound."

Link to NPR, Link to buy Bowed Piano Ensemble CDs (Thanks, Jennifer Lum!)