Agustí Fernandez, A Portrait In Words For An Artist Of Sounds: a discussion with Ken Vandermark

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KV: You mention the use of preparations and extended techniques on the piano as a way to develop new sound worlds, possibly with more spontaneous and sometimes organic responses to the music happening around you. How do you deal with bad instruments?  At almost every concert you’re playing on a different piano with differences in quality, perhaps not even tuned properly. I would imagine that- in order to keep your sanity and to avoid becoming overwhelmed with frustration on certain occasions- over the years you have developed a way to contend with the variations in character and quality of the pianos you need to work with. Is this the case, and if so, what are your strategies to overcome the odds that are sometimes stacked against you?

AF: How do I deal with bad instruments? I adapt myself to them, as any pianist does. Every instrument has something to say, you just have to find what (and where) it is. Pianos are strange creatures, and they can appear in the most strange places.  Sometimes I play in concert halls, the famous ones, and when they know that I’m using objects on the strings they give me the second or third piano (in quality) of the house.  Or sometimes these concert halls have horrible pianos (they call them “historical” because in the 40s-50s some famous pianist played there), where there is little you can do. But sometimes you go to an open air festival in the middle of a forest expecting the worse piano (because of the place, the night humidity, etc) and they have a brand new Fazioli. Ha! You never know what you’ll get.  I have preferences of course but I can adapt to any instrument (or so I think). Have you heard what Ross Bolleter does on ruined pianos? It’s great!  For the [sound] I usually prefer to play acoustic, if possible. I like to be in control of my volume and color, and not leave it to an unknown sound engineer. But of course, when I’m playing with the BGNO I need amplification, just to hear myself!

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