British pianist and inventor Sarah Nicolls has launched a Kickstarter fundraising to develop a new piano, The Standing Grand. According to theannouncment, the Standing Grand will be light and compact enough to bring the fullness of a grand piano’s sound into modern homes, practise rooms and small venues.  With this crowd-fund money, the Future Piano team are aiming to reduce the total piano weight to 82 kg (less than half the weight of a grand piano): « We worked closely with Keechdesign UK, whose particular specialisms are in musical equipment and human centred innovation, to develop the future piano. We have now undertaken as much design work as we can and are now ready to build our first prototype from scratch. This will be a hybrid piano using traditional and advanced materials (composites) for the optimum sound, cost and weight ratio. You can read more and see the project map here.

The idea came from pianist Sarah Nicolls who was performing new classical piano music around the world. Increasingly, composers were asking her to play ‘inside’ the piano: to pluck strings, find harmonics, strum or knock. The sounds were extraordinary but they were uncomfortable to perform and invisible to the audience.

She decided to design a piano where the strings went vertically up from the keys and made a rough prototype in 2008 by spinning the strings of an upright piano through 180 degrees. Sarah could begin to really explore the sonic potential of the piano’s guts and audiences loved seeing everything she was doing. In 2014 she commissioned a better version, this time from a straight strung, under-damped 1900 Erard grand piano – with a new action designed and built by Pierre Malbos. The Kickstarter announcement says: « The new version overcame the problems of the first, it’s a sonic revelation and Sarah has been composing and performing with it ever since. Anyone who has ever had to move a grand piano, will know that it is not something you want to do very often. And as for fitting one in an average sized living room, well, it’s enough to say that as a student, Sarah spent a year sleeping under hers. So, by now focusing on reducing the logistical impact of the piano, Sarah hopes that one day it will be much easier for future generations of pianists to play real, strung pianos. « 

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