WMU News

Music prof debuts novel instrument at Gilmore Festival

April 24, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- A revolutionary instrument that merges acoustic pianos with digital technology will be given its North American premiere Thursday, May 2, as part of the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival.

The Groven piano will be demonstrated by Dr. David Loberg Code, associate professor of music at Western Michigan University. The performance, in the Little Theatre on the WMU campus, is a follow-up project to Code's extensive research into the life and technical innovations of Norwegian classical composer Eivind Groven. Code received a Fulbright Award to travel to Norway last year to conduct his research and take part in celebrations commemorating the 100th anniversary of the late composer's birth.

The Gilmore premiere will include a lecture by Code and performances by WMU faculty and guest artists featuring a wide variety of classical, folk and jazz music. The event begins at 1:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Code developed the Groven piano while in Norway using some of Groven's ideas and experimentation in alternate tunings as a springboard. It is fashioned from four specially-tuned Yamaha Disklavier pianos networked together on stage. A computer program synchronizes the pianos in real time to provide acoustically pure harmonies and exotic scales. The result is similar to the more subtle nuances in pitch experienced by a string quartet or an a capella vocal ensemble.

Code first demonstrated the new instrument in April 2001 at the Norwegian Academy of Music as part of centennial celebrations honoring Groven, who in addition to his work as a classical composer and musical inventor was a Norwegian folk musicologist.

Groven was prompted to experiment with tunings in part because of Norwegian folk music's use of alternate tunings of stringed instruments. The Norwegian "renaissance man" invented an organ in the 1930s equipped with three sets of pipes in different pitches and also had hoped to create a piano capable of switching to alternate tunings. Through the miracle of computer technology, Code has been able to realize Groven's dream.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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