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2009 Spring Issue 4 (May 1, 2009)

Carleton student stages “Piano Burning” for comps project

May 4, 2009

Carleton senior Caitlin Schmid, a Music and English major, staged a performance of renowned avant-garde composer Annea Lockwood's controversial yet notable work, "Piano Burning" Thursday night on the Bald Spot. “’Piano Burning’ plays a very significant role in the development of what is now known as ‘performance art,’” she says. "Watching Lockwood’s performance really generated a lot of interesting discussion among the students. Some of us were really moved by the piece, while others were deeply offended. They couldn't get past the idea of destroying a piano and calling it 'art'."

Lockwood, a pioneer of performance art in the 1960s and considered to be one of the world's most important conceptual composers,participated in a panel discussion held just prior to the performance of “Piano Burning.” The panel also included Assistant Professor of Music and composer Alex Freeman and Lecturer in Art and Art History Laurel Bradley, who serves as the Director of Exhibitions and Curator of the Art Collection at Carleton.

Complementing the performance, Schmid has created an evocative and thought-provoking visual installation in the Concert Hall lobby, incorporating images of the piano in the 20th-century. “There's something very symbolic about a piano,” notes Nicola Melville, Pianist and Professor of Music. “It's not just a musical instrument. We all have this sort of universal respect for pianos—and seeing one on fire can be quite difficult to watch, yet quite mesmerizing at the same time. It's both beautiful and disturbing." She continues, "We are particularly pleased to have the original composer participate in the performance, and to lend her insight into what compelled her to compose the piece, and to help illuminate its meaning. Lockwood’s perspective will certainly enhance this very unique performance experience."

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