Key Jane - Michael Beil International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn

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My compositions before Key Jane were increasingly radical about the separation of sound, sound production, and movement in order to produce sound. In the process, the musicians’ playing movements became compositional material; the sound production was decoupled from the sound and recombined. To me, this way of working reflects the process of increasing virtualisation of actions and “avatarisation” of people that we have been experiencing for decades. It began in music with occasional playback in concert and on television, and is now manifesting itself on the Internet and in social media. The temporal and spatial separation of personality and appearance, of action and perception, still troubled us in the previous century. What a scandal it was when it came out in the 1980s that Milli Vanilli did not sing themselves, or could not even sing. Today, fake has become the norm. More and more often, we see people and objects first aestheticised on the net and then perhaps outside. Young people today experience many things first on the Internet or in movies, and a subsequent encounter in real life may even seem artificial to them. The formerly “real” may appear rather unfamiliar and unsettling today. ere were certainly doubts about the authenticity of our so-called reality before, but now we can relax and assume that most of what we experience is not real anyway. 

In creating the “spectacle concert” in a composition, it was therefore natural for me to take the consistent step of omitting the instrument on stage. Thus, in Key Jane, a pianist performs without a piano. Otherwise, everything is as usual, except for the fact that the pianist is multiplied, quasi “avatarised.” And you may find yourself forgetting which one is the “real” one while watching. Before the first performance of Key Jane in Belgium in 2017, I was still a bit worried that the piece might overwhelm or even provoke the pianist or the audience. After all, it’s all fake. In the meantime, I have discussed the necessary fingerings and facial expressions with many pianists. And rarely has the response to a piece been so unanimously positive as with Key Jane. One can say that contemporary music has arrived in the 21st century. Long live the Avatar, who helps and protects us, but also confuses and inspires us. 

(Key Jane is the female version of the composition Key Jack. Male voice samples have been replaced by female voice samples for the singing piano.) 

Michael Beil