Kawai Shiu

For Loss: Prepared Condemned Piano

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Kawai Shiu's for loss was inspired by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011, specifically by a photograph he saw of a destroyed piano that had washed up on Tsukihama Beach. This haunting image led Kawai to choose a nearly wrecked upright piano for his composition, which is a kind of requiem to the memory of the victims of the disaster. His terminology, "prepared condemned piano," indicates that the piano must be unsalvageable, as well as specially tuned and prepared with various devices to alter its conventional pitches and sounds. The music Kawai has created is so grinding, hypnotic, and disturbing, one can easily imagine the piano's death throes in the course of this recording. Kawai's catalog of sounds includes manipulation of the strings by plucking and bowing, along with knocking and banging noises on the frame, and other sounds produced by working the internal mechanisms. However, these effects were stock in trade of the avant-garde in the 1960s and '70s, so there is no novelty here, just a reworking of familiar experimental sounds. Yet if for loss is understood in light of Kawai's intentions, it is potentially a moving reflection on the fragility and transitory nature of life that he could only convey in this manner.

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