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On the 15th September 2021, we saw Soundlands commission the third piano drowning as a part of Annea Lockwood's 'Piano Transplants' series held at Plas Bodfa in Anglesey.

The Culture Colony team documenting the performance as the spectators take in the performance.

As the third instalment of Annea Lockwood’s ‘Piano Transplants’ series, we saw spectators and artists from around the country come to witness yet another piano drowning, this time held at Plas Bodfa in Beaumaris, Anglesey. The piece was composed by Ynyr Pritchard and was performed on a half-submerged piano by himself and Xenia Pestova Bennett. Four artists were invited to come and observe and witness the recording of this performance. They responded to the various sights and sounds around them through a variety of different forms such as painting, sketching and writing. We were set the task of documenting the work, not only to archive the historic occasion, but also to enable wider audiences to tune in on demand.  In appreciation of Annea Lockwood, the composition will be played on the decomposing piano at Plas Bodfa every year and will hopefully encourage new artistic activity at Plas Bodfa. 

Annea Lockwood began this series, either burning, drowning, beaching or planting faulty pianos in various natural settings. These pianos would then be performed on until they were either entirely engulfed in flames or rendered inoperable as a result of the elements that they had been exposed to. On Annea Lockwood's website, there are examples of each method of 'transplantation' with detailed yet concise instructions of what to do with it in each environment. One of her inspiration's for the series was Christian Barnard, the renowned pioneer of cardiac surgery and trailblazer in the practice of heterotopic heart transplantation. The 'piano drowning' specifically was first realised in 1972 in Amarillo, Texas, with the original burning taking place 4 years earlier in 1968, London. 

The original score is as follows:

Find a shallow pond with a clay/other hard bed in an isolated place.
Slide upright piano into position vertically, just off-shore.
Anchor the piano against storms, e.g. by rope to strong stakes.
Take photographs and play it monthly, as it slowly sinks.

The first 'piano drowning' in 1972 - Photograph by Richard Curtin. 

We used a 5-camera setup with two static shots, one close and one medium of Ynyr and Xenia performing on the partially swamped piano. We then had a 360° camera mounted to get an all-encompassing shot of the performance as well as the spectators. As with all performances where water is involved, we needed to get an underwater shot. This shot covered the submerged base of the piano along with the lower half of the performers as they trudged around the shallow pond. Felix, one of our team members, had the unfortunate task of acquiring the underwater shots and had his swimming trunks at the ready, raring to brave the crisp Autumn water. Our final and most daring shots were all filmed on our DJI Phantom drone. These shots involved lowering the drone mere inches above the surface of the pond to get a wide view of the performance.

Pete Telfer at Plas Bodfa, filming the vibrant pond.

Documentation of Piano Burning can be found by clicking HERE. Piano Drowning at Plas Bodfa will be available to view on Culture Colony soon.

Written by Kieron Shand