For the past several months I have been creating unique works of art for the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra in Wheeling WV. It is their 88 season and there are 88 keys on a piano, so they commissioned a series of works utilizing piano keys in each work for a total of eight works of art. One for each concert performance of the concert year, with each being donated to that concerts major sponsor.
The first concert was Broadway Show tunes. For that performance I had 4 days to create something. Since Broadway means the great white way, I centered the composition around a winding road of keys, the orchestra, and some of the featured show tunes.
The second concert featured Russian Masters. with Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2. The third movement, an Adagio, made me think of a Bolshoi ballet. I used the piano keys to create a stage, painted two dancers on it, in the background is an Russian orthodox church I photographed in Romania years earlier, and finished it off with a heavy stage curtain down one side. All this is superimposed in pastel over one page of the music score.
The third concert featured Bach’s Double Violin Concerto. For that I created a kinetic sculpture out of three piano keys utilizing the full length of the keys. The bridges are 1/4 violin bridges cut down slightly. The tuning pegs are pins from the original keys, and the bow are made from brazing rods to create the needed counter balance.
The fourth and final concert of the 2017 year was Wheeling’s “Symphony on Ice”. For this concert I created from three keys and some hammers, a figure skater. On the one side you see what I was given to start with, then the finished sculpture on the right.
The next concert is scheduled for February 9th. It features the music of Elton John and Billy Joel, and is called “Back 2 Back, in conjuction with Jeans n’ Classics” The challenge was to create an art piece that would reflect the two pianist that were being featured in the concert using piano keys in reconition of the orchestra’s 88 season. The wood is 150 year old wormy chestnut, the five piano keys, piano tuning pins, and a homemade thumb piano from an old rake.
This sixth concert has been a real challenge. The theme is “East meets West”, and showcases the work of Chinese composer Tan Dun and his 3 note symphony along side the works of Bethoven and closing with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade which tell the story of the Arabian 1001 nights. The challenge was to transition between the 2 extremes graphically while using piano keys in the composition. I went through several ideas before settling in this composition. The top key is used to support 3 chimes tuned to Tan Dun’s 3 notes. The other piano keys form a part of the womans head scarf and veil. The chinese characters on the right make up the word Music, and almost hidden in the background is a page of the piano score for Scheherazade.
The seventh concert was “Appalachian Rhapsody”. This is the concert that started me creating works for the symphony. Appalachian Rhapsody was written by a Wheeling native, and the concert performance was its orchestral debut. Written for piano, violin, and orchestra, it interweaves traditional folk tunes into a full bodied musical expression of the regions culture. in creating this piece, I wanted to capture the character of our mountains and valleys, as well as the vibrant movement of the music. To do that I assembled the piano keys so that they were staggered up and down vertically as well as forward and back. The music score was enlarged and attached to each key, creating a mosaic of notes that show the musical theme. Then a violin was cut apart and placed to be coming out from behind and overlay the keys with the top edge again reflecting our mountains. The final treatment was to create Chicory flowers and leaves out of hammered metal and then painted with which to tie the whole composition together. Chicory was chosen as it is such a common wildflower throughout the Appalachians.
The final concert of the 88th season, and Andre Raphael’s final concert as Conductor has as its theme, Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome”. For this piece, I wanted to suggest the Janiculum Pines native to Rome, Italy (which are very different from our pines) in stained glass. While listening to the music, in the second movement, I discovered that there was the song of an nightingale. Apparently Respighi went out and recorded a nightingale singing, to insert into the music. Whit that thought I then added a nightingale in stained glass as well. In my painting, I wanted to capture that moment of twilight where it is still light, but dusk was rapidly approaching, and the nightingales came out to sing. Once again piano keys played a big role and became the trunks of the Janiculum pines.