Jonathan Pitkin

Playing Up (2014)

Playing Up is an interactive installation which offers visitors the opportunity to try out a ‘misbehaving’ musical instrument – a piano which sounds the wrong notes, gets stuck repeating the same pitches, lags behind the performer, flips the keyboard upside-down or even insists on playing the notes of a piece it has been ‘taught’ in advance, regardless of the keys actually being pressed down.

The experience may amuse, intrigue and/or perplex visitors, making them more aware of the sophisticated way in which action and perceptual feedback are almost unthinkingly combined in musical performance (at any level), and of their own ability to adapt when this is reconfigured. You can read a little more about how this relates to research in the field of music psychology in chapter 4 of Peter Q. Pfordfresher's Sound and Action in Music Performance (Elsevier Science, 2019), and much more about the dramatic nature of the piece in Jonathan's contribution to Luis Campos and Fiona Jane Schopf's Music on Stage (vol.2; Cambridge Scholars Press, 2016).

You can watch a demonstration of the installation's different modes, and some footage of visitors trying the instrument out at London's Science Museum, here:

Other works involving electronics

Study: Boots…
Con Spirito