In the Boom of the Tingling Strings, Bryony Gillard

In the Boom of the Tingling Strings
Bryony Gillard (and guest performers)
Plymouth College of Art Gallery

‘In the Boom of the Tingling Strings considers how domestic music-making can operate as a social activator, the role of the amateur musician within society and the cultural an social significance of the piano, as an emblem of social mobility and aspiration.’

There were five ‘works’ included in this exhibition by Bryony Gillard. The most dominant element being ‘Practice’ signified by a grand piano in the centre of the gallery space. This was a space for live rehearsal by amateur and professional musicians to practice. Their slips and errors, which usually stood private, are revealed within the gallery space. Within the gallery setting the piano looks as though it is a work of art, its curves, and complex mechanisms appreciated in a new light, its blackness stark surrounded by the white walls.
Fig 1. ‘Practice’

‘Word Chords 1’, was a wall work, comprising of four pieces of A3 paper pinned together on the wall, with a mnemonic for remembering musical scores upon it, (e.g. Bead, edge, facade, Deface,). This ‘casual’ presentation really seemed to fit with open-nature, or ‘honesty’ of the exhibition, everything is as it is, the exhibition is not trying to be polished or glamourised. The words upon the paper seem artistically placed, reminiscent of Richard Long’s word poetry.

Fig 2. ‘Word Chords 1’

‘As Furniture, as Discipline’ was a video of the artists family huddled around a piano singing a song written by the artist, exploring female identity in conjunction with piano playing. The tune was adapted from ‘I love you truly’ by Carrie Jacobs-Bond, the first song written by a woman to sell over one million copies. ‘As furniture as discipline’ is a poignant piece which explores the fine line between piano playing as freeing or oppressive in the 19th and 20th centuries, (as in, it gave women the freedom of expression but also became an expected skill to be an educated ‘lady’) and gives a different gaze to the practice of music playing.

Fig 3. ‘As Furniture, As Discipline’

Overall, this exhibition creates mixed feelings. It is both successful and unsuccessful. If there is no one practicing or rehearsing the exhibition seems closed, or empty. Many possible viewers simply did not walk it because they thought it closed. The exhibition certainly does have the potential to forge a different perspective, or appreciation of music, but due to the lack of someone rehearsing at the time of viewing it seemed as though a collection of unfinished, disconnected artwork, the act of rehearsal seems key to the exhibitions effect.

Information from accompanying gallery handout


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