Ghosts in the Machine : Technology, History, and Aesthetics of the Player-Piano

bluthnerp
Blüthner Phonola Flügel
Author Melvin Besbrode

Ghosts in the Machine : Technology, History, and Aesthetics of the Player-Piano

Cornell University, Ithaca NY, May 4-6, 2017

The Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies welcomes abstracts for its forthcoming conference on player-pianos to take place at Cornell University, May 4-6, 2017. The conference will feature keynote presentations by Professor Georgina Born (University of Oxford) and Rex Lawson, director of the Pianola Institute. It will also include workshops and scholarly panels ranging across multiple disciplines and perspectives, including: technological, cultural and trade histories; cultural and musical mediations; the analog/digital dichotomy; computational technology; media storage; reproducibility and inscription; sound archives and the preservation of instruments.

In addition to hands-on engagement with historical instruments, the conference will offer a special concert with newly-commissioned music for player-piano and piano, as well as solo and ensemble works for pianola.

Please send an email with your name, institution, and an abstract of no more than 500 words to info -at- westfield.org by January 31, 2017.

More information: https://westfield.org/conferences/pianola

Player-pianos, those amazing instruments able to play “by themselves” by means of complex mechanisms inside acoustic pianos, had their heyday in the early twentieth century. Their sounds were ubiquitous in both theatres and domestic parlors. In the early days of mechanical reproduction and the music entertainment industry, these machines helped shape the contours of the modern experience and revolutionized how people made and listened to music. Yet, after the years of the Great Depression, player-pianos went into oblivion. While phonograph records, and eventually LPs, CDs and iPods, changed the trajectory of recorded sound, player-pianos became the interest of a few collectors, mechanical experts or innovative composers. Recently, however, the player-piano has begun to re-emerge as an object of scholarly inquiry that can offer significant insights into histories of technology, mediation, digitization, globalization, and modernism.

The Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies and the Cornell University Department of Music are sponsoring a cutting-edge conference on player-pianos to take place at Cornell on May 4-6, 2017. The conference is organized by a interdisciplinary team that includes Professors Roger Moseley, Trevor Pinch, Annette Richards, Alejandro Madrid, Ben Piekut, and Marianthi Papalexandri Alexandri, as well as Ph.D student Sergio Ospina-Romero. Keynote presentations include Professor Georgina Born (University of Oxford) and Rex Lawson, director of the Pianola Institute and an internationally-known pianola performer. The conference will include workshops and scholarly panels ranging across multiple disciplines and perspectives, including: technological, cultural and trade histories; cultural and musical mediations; the analog/digital dichotomy; computational technology; media storage; reproducibility and inscription; sound archives and the preservation of instruments. In addition to hands-on engagement with historical instruments, the conference will also include a unique concert with newly-commissioned music for player-piano and piano, and solo and ensemble works for pianola, among other exhibitions and performances.

Sessions
Academic presentations and performances will take place in Lincoln Hall, home of Cornell University’s Department of Music, and Barnes Hall.

The conference committee welcomes abstracts for papers in relation to the topics mentioned above. Abstracts must be of 500 words maximum and should be submitted electronically to info@westfield.org by January 31, 2017. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by February 28, 2017.

Traveling to Ithaca, NY
The most convenient airport is Ithaca/Tompkins County Regional Airport (ITH). Alternatives are Syracuse, Binghamton, and Elmira, however ground transport is limited and expensive to these airports farther away (1-1.5 hour drive). From New York City, bus services to Ithaca include Shortline (most frequent but slowest), Big Red Bullet (express, but limited service), or Cornell’s Campus to Campus coach (direct from midtown but more expensive). The nearest Amtrak station is also in Syracuse. For additional details and links, see visiting Cornell.

Events are free and open to the public.