Piano as violin

Hey, let’s turn a grand piano on its side and play it like a violin! Sure, why not?

Sound icon
Trumpetrep / CC BY-SA

You may remember the post on music for a closed piano, which involves a piano with the lid closed. The various surfaces of the closed piano become different percussion instruments. Well, experimental music has taken this even further: playing a piano like a violin.

Horațiu Rădulescu was a Romanian-French composer who began this unorthodox piano technique in 1965. He took off the top of a grand piano, turned it on its side, and ran some rosined cords through the strings. Hold both ends of the cord tight and pull it back and forth across the strings, and you get the deep music of the sound icon.

Rădulescu called it a sound icon because, turned on its side, the piano looked like some kind of extremely ornate sculpture or altarpiece. It’s more common today to see the related “bowed piano” technique, pioneered by Stephen Scott and Curtis Curtis-Smith, which involves several cords and a piano that’s not turned on its side. Given that grand pianos cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, I can understand their caution.

What does it actually sound like? You can watch a recording of bowed piano here:

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