Portuguese classically-trained, composer-pianist Simão Costa is an artist beyond classifications. He is a sound sculptor that sees the prepared piano as more than a percussion instrument or as a sound generator for other electro‐acoustical sounds and phenomena, but as (un)learning machine, an instrument stripped of the known sonic attachments to the prepared piano, and an instrument that may direct Costa to a new, deeper wisdom about the essence of sound as a tangible and elastic material and about the process of music-making
«Beat With Out Byte» follows Costa’s persistent sonic research that began on his debut solo album «π_Ano Pre·Cau·Tion Per·Cu·Ssion On Short Circuit»» (Shhpuma, 2014), where the acoustic piano was augmented with transducers speakers and objects. «Beat With Out Byte» is described as crystallizing «the deep knowledge about the piano and proposes a reflection on the contemporary relationship between man and machine». All the sounds on this solo album are acoustic, recorded in one take, with no edits, and all were produced from the piano strings and magnets and small motors with sticks placed on them. The vibrating air and the percussive sounds reconcile new and familiar ways to provoke sounds from the prepared piano.
«Beat With Out Byte» was recorded in March 2021 at Teatro da Voz in Lisbon. The hyper piano (borrowing American pianist Denman Maroney’s definition for his own prepared piano). The four pieces offer distinct strategies to produce sounds from the prepared piano. «Beat» suggests a spacious and subtle drone that floats within a cloud of hypnotic overtones, before the sparse pounding of the piano keyboards grounds this dreamscape. The highly resonant «With» corresponds first with Balinese gamelan music and West-African balafon percussive legacies, slowed down to its basics, but later this piece is lost within a minimalist and almost silent yet surprisingly lyrical ambiance.
The last two pieces offer more extroverted and playful strategies, where the piano evokes the sound of a much larger outfit. «Out» builds methodically its architecture of sounds – percussive touches of the piano strings, echoed with Indian, tambura-like or Brazilian berimbau-like drones, gravitating patiently into a repetitive, dramatic pulse that leads into a cathartic climax but ends in a full-circle return into the gentle, percussive touches. «Byte», again, takes a minimalist repetitive, a Steve Reich-ian rhythmic pattern that flirts with a techno beat and suggests a panoramic sonic perspective on its timbral spectrum.
Costa performs these pieces with an impressive and poetic sense of time and space.
Simão Costa (p)