WIKI-PIANO: Realising an internet-composed solo piano work by Alexander Schubert
This paper examines the creation and early performances of Alexander Schubert’s WIKI- PIANO.NET, commissioned by the author in 2018 and performed him at international festivals and venues throughout 2018-2019. Schubert is one of the leading German composers of his generation, garnering international interest for his integration of new technologies and the bodies of the performers, his subversion of concert conventions, his use of the internet and digital media as major influences and the precision of his interdisciplinary works. He is a founding member of ensembles such as “Decoder“. He received prizes and scholarships from ZKM, Giga-Hertz-Prize, Bourges, ICMC and commissions from NDR, International Musikinstitut Darmstadt , Ensemble Resonanz, IRCAM, ZKM, HCMF amongst others. His works have been performed more than 400 times for example by Ensemble Intercontemporain, Ictus Ensemble, Nadar Ensemble, Ensemble Mosaik, Ensemble Nikel, Klangforum Wien and Decoder Ensemble in over 35 countries
WIKI-PIANO.NET is both a major milestone in his work, as well as an exception to many of his other approaches.
Schubert’s work is a unique social and compositional experiment: the score is a website, featuring sections of notation, images, videos, sound files, sketch pads and text boxes. All the sections can be edited by any member of the public, similar to a Wikipedia page. The webpage is used both as the score in each performance, as well as the multimedia platform, playing images, sound files and streamed videos to the audience via a separate window. In its integration of media, theatre and performance, WIKI-PIANO.NET is both an exemplar of the ‘New Discipline’ (Walshe) aiming to speak beyond a specialised new-music discourse within an ‘expanded sonic field’ (Kim-Cohen, Ciciliani, Shlomowitz and others) as well as a subversive commentary on this new intermedial genre. The work is constantly being edited, and consequently, every performance is markedly different.
The paper will explore the conception of the work, the early workshops with Schubert where the first realisation was formed (using ethnographic documentation of these sessions), as well examining as the many varied iterations of the score and subsequent performances, including key sections of films of the first six performances in Esslingen, London, Copenhagen, Darmstadt, Huddersfield and Malmö. Notably, the way that the work reflects internet culture, including the relationship to social media, the use of memes, the act of trolling and other destructive behaviours and collaborative creativity (often utilising social media platforms) will be reflected upon. Finally, the complex distribution of authorship, and the unusual strategies for control utilised by both composer and performer will be discussed – despite the huge variability in the score and the hundreds of compositional contributors, there are many key factors that remain constant with each performance, and all the various realisations bear the strong imprint of both composer and performer.
University of London, UK
Is a pianist, composer, improviser and technologist. Over the last decade he has established his reputation as a leading innovator of new approaches to the piano with recent work focusing on interaction using new technologies, including film, AI, motion capture, 3D modelling, animation and virtual reality. Zubin has performed at many international festivals including the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, BBC Proms, (UK), Melbourne Festival (Australia), Manifeste Festival (France), Klang Festival (Denmark), Darmstadt (Germany) and Borealis Festival (Norway). Zubin has collaborated with many of the world’s leading composers including Thomas Adès, Michael Finnissy, George Benjamin, Steve Reich and Beat Furrer and premiered more than 90 new works. A Masters and PhD graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, London, Zubin recently finished a post as post-doctoral researcher at the University of Nice and IRCAM, Paris and is currently the Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London.