I am bombarded by sound. Staccato notes ricochet around the room, filling my ears with deep tones, then abruptly end. I expect quiet and am instead left listening to an enduring, echoing reverberation. Before silence has a chance to settle, the bombardment begins anew. This time I am attuned to it, more prepared to sift through the layers of sound. I can hear the clear tones of the hammer strike and the lasting ring of its sound. I can hear the percussive flatness of the felted strike itself. This time the end of active sound creation blends more smoothly into the echoing in between. I become aware of pondering spirals, how the beginning of sound flows past the echoes left before it and reaches into the echoes that come after.
The next movement feels more familiar, a melody more distinguishable, and I am able to relax into listening. The tinkling mid-tones mimic a mandolin and I peek through slit eyelids to remind myself that I am listening to a piano. I find myself wondering what instrumental category a piano falls into – strings, percussion, or something else?
A third movement catches me off guard, the higher tones of the upper register less able to blend into the vibrations left as their after effect. I am unsettled by a vague static hum and I long to reach out and still the piano strings with my hands. As the pianist moves back to the lower register, I become aware of the droning sound of an airplane. I settle on crop duster as the most appropriate name I can give this noise. I am looking at a piano and I am hearing a noise I associate with the dusty edges of a wheat field. As I begin to wonder how this sound is being produced, I detect the lower, rumbling hum of a locomotive. This is the deep thrumming buzz you feel in your feet long before you can see an approaching train. I identify the feeling of unease this brings as the knowledge that I am too close to a potential danger. Suddenly, the piece crashes to an end with a tumultuous slamming of hands and arms on keys. I am left with echoes and vibrations and memories and emotions.
The piano that had been arranged for Andrew Czink was misplaced prior to the beginning of his performance at SFU’s Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre. Had I not been staring at it while he played, I could have been convinced that the piano was never found. Mr. Czink crafts a soundscape through a rapid-fire interaction between his hands and the piano keyboard. He challenges his audience to suspend their expectations of what a piano sounds like and to be open to hearing unexpected things. Consequently, each audience member must draw upon their personal history to inform their experience of his work: when I hear a crop duster, another hears a didgeridoo. Mr. Czink’s structured improvisational style results in a unique performance combining artist, audience, and venue. There is a particular beauty in knowing that the work you are hearing cannot and will not be replicated. In his fleeting, evolving, responsive frenzy of vibrations and echoes, Mr. Czink offers us a series of reminders. We are reminded to pay attention. We are reminded to be curious. We are reminded of the importance of experimentation and play. We are reminded of the potential for connection through shared experience and the energy generated by turning to a fellow audience member and wondering: “What did you hear?”