USA sound artist Annea Lockwood performed ‘Piano Burning’ at The Old Goods Yard in Treborth, Bangor, on Saturday 29 June at 6.15pm 2013 as the launch to the new Bangor Sound City season.

In this rare opportunity to see Annea Lockwood perform her seminal 1968 work ‘Piano Burning’, the artist was joined by three musicians from Bangor School of Music, Xenia Pestova, Ed Wright and Sarah Westwood who played the piano before it is finally set alight and burnt. This was followed by other performances by The Old Goods Yard Artists’ Collective and their guests including spontaneous poetry by Martin Daws, the Young People’s Poet Laureate for Wales.

Bangor Sound City has also teamed up with Hawrch Festival of the Arts and Golygfa Gwydyr, Llanrwst, to recreate the two other works from Lockwood’s Piano Transplant series and link them via the internet for simultaneously screening at all three venues. A baby grand will be placed on the shoreline of Harwich beach, as an evolution of ‘Piano Drowning’, and an upright piano planted as a ‘Piano Garden’ in the Gwydyr Forest Llwybr y Ceirw sculpture trail where it will gradually be return to nature over the coming years.

Iwan G. WIlliams of Bangor Sound City said “Its fantastic to be bringing such an important and exciting sound artist as Annea Lockwood to North Wales and wonderful to be working with so many local artists too. The score for ‘Piano Burning’ says the pianists can continue playing even after the piano is lit, so it will be interesting to see how long they last before their fingers get too hot!”

Born in New Zealand in 1939, Lockwood studied composition at several European institutions including at the Royal College of Music, London. She began a series of ‘Piano Transplants’ in 1968 in which defunct pianos were variously burned, drowned, beached, and even planted – initially in homage to Christian Barnard’s pioneering heart transplants of the time. Although perhaps most well known for her ‘Glass Concert’ (1967) creating sounds form glass shards and tubing, her ‘Piano Transplant’ series has become an iconic landmark in the history of sound art.

In the 70s and 80s Lockwood went on to compose environmental sound performances, often using low-tech devices such as her foam covered Sound Ball containing six small speakers and a receiver. Since the early 1990s she has written for a number of ensembles and solo performers, often incorporating electronics and visual elements including ‘Thousand Year Dreaming’ scored for four didgeridus, conch shell trumpets and other instruments and incorporating slides of the cave paintings at Lascaux.

More recently Lockwood created ‘Gone!’ in which a little piano-shaped music box, attached to twenty helium balloons, is released from a concert grand and floats off over the audience playing, in one case, Memories.

Her music has been released on XI, Mutable, Pogus, EM Records (Japan), Rattle Records, Soundz Fine (NZ), Lovely, Harmonia Mundi and Ambitus labels. She is a recipient of the 2007 Henry Cowell Award and an Emerita Professor at Vassar College, USA.

Sounds from the event including the playing and burning of the piano were recorded and are available on

Piano Burning

  • Piano Burning (1968 – London)
  • Set upright piano (not a grand) in an open space with the lid closed.
  • Spill a little lighter fluid on a twist of paper and place inside, near the pedals.
  • Light it.
  • Balloons may be stapled to the piano.
  • Play whatever pleases you for as long as you can.

Piano Garden

  • Piano Garden (1969-70 – Ingatestone, Essex)
  • Dig a sloping trench and slip an upright piano in sideways so that it is half interred.
  • A small grand piano may be set down amongst bushes etc.
  • Plant fast growing trees and creepers around the pianos.
  • Do not protext against weather and leave the pianos there forever.

Piano Drowning

  • Piano Drowning (1972 – Amarillo, Texas)
  • Find a shallow pond with a clay/other hard bed in an isolated place.
  • Slide upright piano into position vertically, just off-shore.
  • Anchor the piano against storms, e.g. by rope to strong stakes.
  • Take photographs and play it monthly, as it slowly sinks.

Bangor Sound City

Bangor Sound City is a not-for-profit project aiming to make positive contributions to Bangor and its environs through the sound arts.

Piano Burning was presented by Bangor Sound City and Soundlands in partnership with Harwich Festival of the Arts and The Old Goods Yard Artists’ Collective. In collaboration with Bangor University School of Music. Funded by The Arts Council of Wales.

Bangor Sound City is managed by Datrys.

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