When was a faculty piano recital more than just a typical faculty piano recital? That would be when Dr. Sarah Rushing of the WTAMU School of Music on March 9 premiered the first Steinway Spiriocast performance to multiple colleges in a national field test for this new technology.
Spriocasting syncs a performer’s keyboard and pedals to an unlimited number of similarly-wired pianos. Not only does the computer program deliver a matching sound, with artist’s inflections and dynamics, but also portrays streaming video of the performer as an empty keyboard, perhaps halfway around the world, mimics their faraway touch. In addition, the program allows recording, playback and editing on the accompanying ipad.
The first Spiriocast occurred on Oct. 25, 2021 when Kris Bowers performed from a piano in California for Steinway dealerships around the world. Dr. Rushing gave the first performance targeting a collegiate audience, her Steinway doppelgangers echoing her artistry simultaneously at Odessa College, Wayland University and Weatherford College.
Her program, a combination of 19th and 20th century composers, showcased the Steinway’s versatility and capacity, certainly meeting the criteria for this experiment. The audience in the other three schools enjoyed the virtual video, but with the exact audio, replete with the resonance and nuances that streaming cannot convey.
Two of Dr. Rushing’s choices deserve mention. She opened with Many Thousand Gone, a work by a woman called the “Dean of Black Women Composers,” Undine Smith Moore. This short piece is intense, and can be termed either turbulent or triumphant depending on the listener. Regardless, this work which inaugurated this seminal performance is short, lyrical and highly evocative.
Jean Sibelius published his six impromptus for piano in 1893, about the same time as he composed his Karelia Suite. The Opus 5 no. 5 is a scintillating sequence of keyboard-running arpeggios, interspersed with abbreviated thematic intervals. This beautifully expressive piece was a delight to hear, whether in Canyon, Weatherford, Odessa or Plainview.
It was easy to get carried away by the quality of the performance and overlook its significance. Even as colleges and universities around the world incorporate this new technology, WTAMU will have bragging rights as the first to explore its possibilities.
Many thanks to Dr. Sarah Rushing for her performance, and Dr. Robert Hansen, Dean of the School of Music, for the leadership and vision that first recognized the potential of Spiriocasting. The world of piano performance may never be the same!
All of which only adds to the conviction that the quality of the arts here on the High Plains of the Llano Estacado is incomparable and for which we proudly say..
Keep Amarillo Artsy!
Keep Austin Weird!
Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!!