Kinderklavierfeld is an installation work comprised of five robotic toy pianos. The pianos communicate with one another over a wireless network, performing a generative/algorithmic composition. The instruments are installed far apart from one another, creating spatial patterns of sound as the melody line moves from piano to piano. In the tradition of musical clocks, the composition is performed hourly in short durations. When not performing music, the instruments have LED displays that count down to the next performance.

The instruments were once traditional Schoenhuts, the venerable child's piano, but I have both improved and degraded these fine instruments in a number of ways. Firstly I removed all the white keys from the instruments, and moved the black keys to non-standard positions. Furthermore, I retrofitted the instruments with solenoids that can pull down the keys, thereby allowing notes to be performed by electronic means. Each instrument is equipped with an Arduino microcontroller and a Xbee radio modem. The largest of the five pianos acts as a “conductor” for the ensemble, distributing notes throughout the piano network.

Kinderklavierfeld is a made-up German word that would probably mean “toy piano field,” if it were actually a word, which it isn’t. This work was made by possible thanks to the generous support of The WatsON Festival, The Carnegie Mellon School of Music, Alexander “Fish” Bohn, Ali Momeni, Rich Pell, Olivia Robinson, and Spike Wolff.

Production video
Production photos