The Pianola Project

The Pianola Project is based on a player piano roll of Pete Wendling’s song “Hesitation Blues”. This was used as a template to transfer the placement of notes onto a 4 x 18 ft roll of paper. The original height of the scroll is 1 ft, which is scaled up to 4 ft on the large paper, embellishing the original in fractal-inspired way inspired by Benoit Mandelbrot’s theory of noise and disturbance.

The structure retained from the enlargement of the original player piano roll are compositional guides for the drawing, dictated in part by “Hesitation Blues”. This lack of control over the composition has made the process of realizing the drawing more about re-vealing rather than inventing. Through the drawing I am interpreting the original player piano roll’s information in my own artistic language.

Using the guidelines of original player piano roll manufacturing, the speed and format was interpolated. Piano rolls are governed by rules that control the pitch, tone and volume. The Buffalo Convention of December 10, 1908 established two roll formats. “Hesitation Blues” works out to a tempo of 70 signifying 7 feet of paper traveling in one minute, setting the duration of the song at 2min 18s. The movement of sound also relates to the length or the drawing: the technical description of hertz(Hz) uses Feet. The 18 ft of the drawing translates as 19.0556 Hz – a frequency that sits at the very beginning of the human ear’s capacity to hear.

Through a process of retro-engineering the drawing was returned to sound using computer music software and a new program design specifically for this project. This computer program plays through the guidelines and mathematics of the original structure the drawing is based upon. The outcome retains a lingering shadow of the original song; peeking through the new layers of information – either barely audible or structurally dominant as an imperfect rendering mixed with new notes and information; a new composition, re-arranged in a drawing.

The Pianola Project at pfoac221.