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Designing a Future Piano

October 2017: Exciting news! Ten years after having the idea, I’ve got funding from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, to undertake detailed design/engineering work on a really new kind of piano. My project will be familiar to all of you who have seen my piano-endeavours over the last decade but this is taking my idea onto a whole new level, working with outstandingly creative and technical people to bring it closer to becoming something real. Firstly, then, a huge thanks to Innovate UK for believing in the vision and supporting it for the next six months, through their ‘Design Foundations’ programme. And thanks too to the team I’m leading: Keechdesign UK, Jigsaw Structures, the National Composites Centre and piano builder extraordinaire, David Klavins (his super-light UC piano will be known to some of you and, through pianist Nils Frahm, you might also have heard his impressive pianos at the other end of the scale). Keechdesign UK are a leading London-based design company led by talented brothers Tristram Keech, former Design Director at Conran & Partners and David Keech, who was the first non-Japanese designer to join Yamaha’s creative team in Hamamatsu. Jigsaw Structures are Tim Evans and Chris Vaissiere, experts in how to put different materials together and finally, the National Composites Centre is like a dream aeroplane hangar of materials possibilities where, just maybe, my piano might get built one day… 🙂

We are going to want to talk to anyone who is interested: to give us your views on the piano currently, what it might be, the constraints it currently has (especially musically or logistically) and any other creative ideas you’d like to throw into the mix (although, to be fair, I think I’ve dismissed the spherical piano that my brother suggested – sorry…!). PLEASE just drop me a line, tweet, etc with the #futurepiano if you’d like to be part of this!

Our official description is: ‘Designing a Future Piano’ looks at how the piano, a historic and iconic instrument, can be made to fit more appropriately into our modern lives. It seeks to retain the acoustic grand piano with all of its richness of sound and its impressive, monumental stance, whilst also making it a less cumbersome instrument. We aim to radically rethink how a piano works and looks. The team is led by Sarah Nicolls, an innovative concert pianist with over 20 years’ experience of performing around the world and creating new music and contexts.

Library of Water, Iceland: a residency

I had an amazing artistic residency in Iceland with my 5-year-old son this summer, 2017. We were invited to stay at the incredible Library of Water in Stykkisholmur, a building transformed by artist Roni Horn and commissioned by Artangel, which looks out to the serenely gorgeous and translucent Icelandic sea. Upstairs, Roni Horn’s installation of glacial columns and volcanic words inspired us while we played chess, whilst seeing the utterly mind-blowing sights of Iceland (here, my new favourite place on earth: the ‘ice lagoon’ Jokulsarlon) transported us through the raw landscape to muse on a geographical time scale. I wrote this about the trip: Freezing to boiling, falling, melting and everything in between, Iceland is about water. Looking at it, being in it, being awestruck by its many magical and hugely powerful forms. It surrounds, heals and enters your thinking, making you fluid with the environment; everything that exists because of it, in it, is all of history. Thanks to Frida Ingvarsdottir for enabling me to have this experience and I look forward to seeing how it comes out in my work.