The pianola (pronounce: “pee-ah-NO-la”) is a piano that can play by itself. Inside the piano are paper rolls which have holes punched in. These holes release air which in turn triggers the keys to play. When the pianola plays itself the keys of the piano can be seen “playing themselves” (source).
Pianolas were developed in the 1880s, but lost popularity in the 1920s with the rise of the gramophone and piano sheet music. Pianolas – and the rolls of music inside them – faded into history.
The Drill Hall Studio is giving pianola rolls new life when the gallery’s first exhibition of 2018 launches tomorrow night.
Pianola Reimagined is an exhibition with no set criteria: artists were given a pianola roll each, which were then transformed to their heart’s content. And the results are breathtaking.
Drill Hall owner and resident artist, Sue Tilley, said Pianola Reimagined was a great way of opening an exhibition up to the community.
“A lady dropped in to the gallery who had been carting these pianola rolls around for some time; they’d been passed down in her family but she came to the conclusion that they would never use them, so she asked if we could find some creative use for them,” Sue said.
“There were lots of things we could’ve done with them, but it’s always really nice when you give everyone the same raw material and let them come up with their own take on it. What’s wonderful about this exhibition is there’s really no two pieces that are similar.”
“There’s 35 artists all together in this exhibition, and we have quite a few new artists involved – we opened it up broader to encourage students and community members to contribute. There’s everything in here from scientists and students to our resident artists. It’s one of those mediums where you don’t have to be an artist to make it work well -it spurs the creativity!”
Catch the launch of Pianola Reimagined at the Drill Hall Studio from 6:30pm this Friday. The exhibition will run until 22 March.