New Sounds, New Spaces, Old Pianos

Six Piano Project



The Six Piano Project brings you an unforgettable night of new music composed for up to six old pianos in a surround sound experience. Inspired by Australian composer Ross Bolletter's work 'Ruined Pianos', audiences are invited to engage in an immersive performance experience that bring life back into these beautiful old instruments.

For this event artistic director Kitty Xiao (Nimbus Trio, Six Piano Collective), ABC Pianos and Carnegie's Piano Service have teamed up to adopt old, abandoned pianos for a night of musical performances featuring new works by Melbourne composer Elliot Hughes, Carolyn Schofield, Lewis Ingham, Kitty Xiao and an Australian debut by U.S Austin composer Nathan Felix. All works will be performed by the Six Piano Collective and led by conductor Laura Barton.

The Six Piano Project was first explored by Felix in his work 'The Sixth Piano', premiered in Austin, San Antonio and earlier this year in Barcelona. The project centres on composing and performing music on old, used pianos. This is a diverse and uncommon artistic practice as many of these old pianos are seen as unusable, useless. The event challenges this conception and embraces the individuality of these old instruments. Rather than hiding their age, composers are encouraged to write music that highlight the unique characteristics of each piano. The event is an artistic challenge for both composers and performers and raises awareness of cultural diversity, inclusion and underlying attitudes that exist within our disposable culture.

Images from The Piano Graveyard (Wambyn Olive Grove in Western Australia) by Australian photographer Ken Brass will be displayed for audience to explore before, during and after the performance.


Following the concert, the pianos will be donated to various music venues and primary/secondary schools in Melbourne, Victoria.

The Six Piano Collective are Melbourne pianists Natasha Lin, Adam McMilan, Julia Hastings, Rosie Riebl, Uri Barak, Grace Ferguson and Kitty Xiao.

Thanks to our partners ABC Pianos, Carnegie's Piano Service and Two Birds Brewing.


Composed by Alexi Machavariani

'Concert Etude No.3 'Toccatina'

Composed by Nikolai Kapustin

Khorumi was composed by Alexi Machavariani, and it means war dance, which is a traditional dance of southern Georgia that reminds people the balance of life and death. It's rhythmically intense and I find it a very imaginative piece - the score was so difficult to find, but I managed to get it from an obscure Georgian website! Khorumi paves way for the next piece, which is Tocattina by Nikolai Kapustin. This is the third out of his eight Concert Etudes, and has been difficult to learn but so fun and rewarding to play. It's got interesting elements of jazz, classical and Latin, and has interesting colours that I will try draw out of the old piano. Mind you, the repeated notes of this piece will be the make or break for me choosing which piano to play these pieces on!

'Murmurs Across a Chasm'
for 2 old pianos,

Composed by Lewis Ingham

There's something distinct about the sound of an 'old' piano. Sometimes it's in the sound of the hammers, or the sound of the keys. For me, it's in the resonance of the instrument. 
My composition explores the ghostly remnants of two old pianos, with individual phrases lingering before the other piano swallows the soft sound. 
The music is made of gestures which, like murmurs, echo, fade, and float across a chasm. This chasm could exist within the body of the piano itself, in the space between the two performing pianos, or even metaphorically between two people.

'A Fall' for 3 old pianos,

Composed by Carolyn Schofield

I wanted to create a slow, shifting and flickering sea of sound that would have been more difficult to create with a single piano. I also wanted to explore how I could give individual players freedom to improvise on simple material, in a way that will allow many different, unpredictable moments, patterns or melodies to emerge in surround sound, while showing the distinct nature of each piano. The music explores individual characters of the larger and lower strings of the pianos through techniques which bring out their upper harmonics, seemlingly creating phantom notes that are not actually being played.

'Let Them Speak' for 4 old pianos,

Composed by Elliott Hughes

The work is designed to let us hear different resonances that can be created within each old piano. I had to think where the sound is coming from, and how that would feel to the audience seated within the instrument themselves. The piece uses repetition to build up a bed of sound, before releasing so we can hear the decay all the way to silence.

'The Tenderness of Rain for 5 old pianos,

Composed by Kitty Xiao

The music I wrote is dedicated to the Piano Graveyard in Western Australia. It's the sound of solid, air, water; and the transience of rain. It's an array of colours, a celebration and rebirth. And it's dedicated to all the old pianos that have come and gone from my life. 

'The Sixth Piano', 

Composed by Nathan Felix

The idea to write for six pianos came about while living in Los Angeles in the Echo Park neighborhood. I was drawn to the artists that were working on producing events and experiences that were taking place in all kinds of urban settings - streets, the train station and so forth. I wanted to push my limits so had the idea to write for 6 pianos in surround sound. 
I wanted the pianos to play off of each other and be about sound and parts working to create a whole. Writing for 6 pianos and having this performed in different spaces and musicians around the world has evolved how I think about sound and my approach as a composer.