A: Introduction   B: Memory Piece    C: Audio Paper

Orchestrating Timbre

Unfolding processes of timbre and memory in improvised piano performance.

by Magda Mayas

This exposition is part of a doctoral thesis in Musical Performance and Interpretation at the Academy of Music and Drama, Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Gothenburg.

The written thesis can be downloaded here - insert link-


Media example A 1: Videos of Inside piano Techniques

Chapter 2: Instrument Relations

This research is an exploration into timbre and the intimate relationships between instruments, space and body in my pratice.

I am a pianist performing in the realm of improvised music. Throughout the years I have developed techniques on the acoustic grand piano, playing with the strings, the soundboard, the metal frame and the keys, using preparations and objects. The piano is transformed but can be returned to its unprepared state in an instant. The set up is adaptable to different pianos and the acoustics of different spaces, giving me the flexibility to mold and change sounds and timbres whilst I play, which is important aspect of improvised music.

A radio program on the history of inside and prepared piano playing and its practice today featuring

many contemporary pianists,  incl. John Tilbury, Cor Fuhler, Chris Burn, Andrea Neumann, Benoit Delbecq, Tisha Mukarji,

Anthony Pateras, Reinhold Friedl, Frederic Blondy, Sophie Agnel, is available as a podcast here:



I discuss inside, prepared piano playing and instrument relations in chapter 2 of my thesis.

Chapter 3: Objects

The objects I play with, become extensions of the instrument itself, changing and individualising it. Rather then talking about "extended instrumental techniques"  I would  like to draw attention to the detailed, idiosyncratic and intimate relationships objects and the way we use them evoke and afford, the situated knowledge we develop and gain from spending time with them, which is not transferable and cannot sufficiently be explained in an instruction guide. 

The tension between intimately knowing the objects and instruments one uses, and knowing how to build a timbral, gestural and material vocabulary through them, and at the same time having the need for surprises and the unknown, is stimulating and something which seems essential to improvisational processes.

Below is a  selection of videos* to show how I engage with the piano and objects I use to create sound with. Doubleclick the video too enlarge it.

For more details about objects, their relationship and meaning to me and other practitioners, and their role in timbre orchestration within my practice, see chapter 3 of the thesis.

*Video and postproduction by Tony Buck