Bowled over by the Bowed piano

Everyone who has ever had a piano in their house has surely at some point tried getting sound out of the instrument without pressing the keys. As a schoolboy, I’d find ways to reach underneath and play the keys in reverse, pushing upwards on the usually unseen and untouched wooden undersides of the levers. I’d sometimes attempt to pluck the strings, but I always worried I’d de-tune it. When I saw Ben Folds play the strings of a grand piano by scraping them with the grille of his microphone, I shivered in recognition of a secret and guilty pleasure.

BoingBoing recently linked to an amazing piece on NPR about an extended technique for playing the piano, but bowing it. But the bowed piano is not bowed with traditional bows…

“The primary sound is produced by a bow of nylon fish-line, which is rosined, and that’s just threaded under the piano string and across it. There’s another kind of bow, which is a stick of wood which has horse hair affixed to it, and that’s rubbed against the strings to produce a short, percussive sound.”

The bowed-piano ensemble also uses guitar picks, Popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, and even rubber plumbing tape to expand the palette of sound colors for Scott’s compositions.

The piece also includes a video but there’s an even longer, better video on YouTube of Entrada by Stephen Scott performed by The Bowed Piano Ensemble which wonderfully demonstrates this technique.


That’s something I want to see live in concert.

Flight of the Conchords – convergence at CES

Along with yesterday’s Macworld conference (MacBook Air… mmmm…) CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, is one of the highlights of the geek year. New devices are announced and launched; bigger televisions, smaller mobile phones, faster, better, now!

The wonderful kiwi comic duo, Flight of the Conchords (who you’ll remember I’ve mentioned here before) played there this year. Flight of the Conchords at CES? How could that possibly work? It turns out it works brilliantly.

They perfectly mock everything that is mockable about CES. Wonderful stuff.

Here Comes Another Bubble

richterScales_bubble_scoble Ze Frank recently linked to a wonderful Web 2.0 parody song/video called ‘Here Comes Another Bubble‘ by an a cappella group called The Richter Scales.

It’s brilliant.

I particularly like this moment from 1:36, with Scoble being used as the backdrop to “blog even if you’re wrong”.

Much as I enjoy it, I would make one observation. The wall of Web 2.0 logos shown between 0:12 to 0:16 seems to be from this famous image on Flickr by Stablio Boss. I notice this is licensed Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share-alike yet I don’t see any attribution in the video or on the group’s site.

Update: a new version of the video, with credits, has been released. I’ve replaced the embedded video with the new version.

Iceland Airwaves – hangovercast #5

NB: if you want, you can subscribe to hangovercast as a podcast. But don’t feel like you’ve got to.

Episode five. Final update from Airwaves 2007. We fly home today. Recorded in the hotel hot tub. Not very hungover at all really.

Hangovercast #5

Skífan record shop:


Helgi Valur & The Shemales Plants and Animals Plants and Animals Plants and Animals Plants and Animals

Iceland Airwaves – hangovercast #4

Your daily dose of hungover Airwaves musings. This afternoon, we chat about Saturday night.

Hangovercast #4




Sam Amidon Ms John Soda Amiina Seabear Lali Puna

Iceland Airwaves – hangovercast #3

A slightly delayed hangover cast today due to being out quite late last night. Icelanders enjoy their Friday nights.

Hangovercast #3

Kaffibarinn (16:00 Bedroom Community)


Art Museum:


I forgot to mention my hangover tip of the day. It is this: get back to the hotel after a seriously long night at 7am and enjoy the guilty pleasure of eating a hot breakfast before a few hours sleep.

Nico Muhly, through the window of Kaffibarinn Loney, Dear Loney, Dear Trentemøller Rökkurró

Iceland Airwaves – hangovercast #2

Friday morning hangovercast (about Thursday night)

Nordic House:

  • 13:00 – Boys in a Band

  • 13:30 – Sprengjuhöllin


  • 17:00 Jónas Sigurðsson

  • 17:30 Seabear

12 Tonar:

  • 18:00 Plants & Animals


  • 19:45 Stereo Hypnosis

  • 20:30 Kira Kira
  • 21:15 My Summer as a Salvation Soldier (NB: they’re not actually brothers at all. My mistake.)
  • 22:00 Ólöf Arnalds
  • 22:45 Valgeir Sigurðsson
  • 23:30 Ben Frost
  • 00:15 Sam Amidon

Other stuff: Bardi

Ben Frost Iceland Day 4 191 Iceland Day 4 155 Iceland Day 4 107 Kira Kira

Iceland Airwaves – hangovercast #1

Sam and I woke up this morning with mild hangovers after the first night of Airwaves. We made a hangovercast over breakfast in which we mumble about the bands we saw last night. Enjoy.

Hangover cast #1 – Wednesday night

Here are the bands we saw…

12 Tonar:



12 Tonar Rökkurró Þórir Lights on the Highway Shadow Parade

Iceland Airwaves 2007

I’m getting rather excited about Iceland Airwaves (find it on and I fly to Reykjavik with my brother, Sam, on Monday 15th October, and we won’t return until the following Monday. Seven whole nights of Icelandic bliss.

Blue lagoon

Blue Lagoon by Tomosaurus on Flickr

The festival itself runs between Wednesday 17th and Sunday 21st October, and takes over nine different venues in Reykjavik, as well as a ‘hangover party’ in the Blue Lagooon (above) plus more events running in eleven ‘off-venue’ locations including clubs, record stores and coffee shops.

The list of artists playing at the festival is eclectic to say the least, and the schedule is impressive. Just some of the bands I’m looking forward to seeing:

I missed last year, but my brother’s enthusiasm for the event meant I had to join him this time around. To give a flavour of it, after the event proper finished, Erlend Øye (of Kings of Convenience) fame played an acoustic set in a church in the middle of nowhere for an audience of three or four people. Fortunately, one of them captured and shared the moment…

Although Sigur Rós (my long-time favourite Icelandic band) are not scheduled to play this year, Sam and I are hoping to take in quite a bit of the local Sigur magic. Having missed tickets for it in London, I’m looking forward to seeing the film ‘Heima‘ which is playing in Reykjavik that week. Plus, Riceboy Sleeps (formed of Jónsi Birgisson from Sigur Rós and Alex Somers from Parachutes) are exhibiting a new video at the Turpentine Gallery in Reykjavík as part of the Sequences Art Festival.

I just need to pack some warm clothes, a notebook, prepare the iPod and get some spare batteries for the camera.

John Lennon´s Memorial Peace Beacon is in Reykjavik.

It´s turned on on his birthday (October 9th) and off again on the day he was killed (December 8th).

Flight of the Conchords

Dan recently told me to check out Flight of the Conchords (“formerly New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk parody duo”). He was right and I instantly adored them. Thanks Dan. It’s hard not to make comparisons with The Arrogant Worms (a Canadian comic parody act who are also adorable) and Tenacious D.

For your entertainments and delight: The Humans are Dead, complete with a binary solo.


Oh, and as Rachel points out, it’s Jemaine Clement. He was in Eagle vs Shark. Yay.

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