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Sabrina Lastman

first performed on November 5, 2011
Roulette, Brooklyn, NY
performed once in 2011


Brooklyn, NY


“Scaling” originally grew out of the problem of how to write a song about the human relationship to the earth that wasn’t cheesy. I decided to transfer my relationship to the earth/nature/ground to my relationship as a singer to the piano, not only as my primary accompanying instrument, but also as the grand instrument of romantic classical music that solidified the use of equal temperament in the West and became the most influential compositional tool until the computer. The monolithic presence, history, and harmonic disciplining of the piano held all the issues of resource, responsibility, and mutual influence found in the human relationship to the environment.

I then proceeded by playing the piano in unusual ways and seeing how this affected my songwriting-with my fists, my knees, from on top of it rather than in front of it, by turning away from it and flapping my arms against the keys like a bird. I discovered that the songs-centered on love, desire, etc., like most pop songs-were influenced in both lyrical context and emotional direction by the relationship to the piano these new positions had put into place (not to mention what I could literally manage to play). Eventually the piece became a set of songs moving through different positions at the piano, culminating in a song where I invited audience members to press their ears against the piano and hear the change in sound.

The term “scaling” became important as both a physical activity of climbing and the disciplining of sound through the design of the length and thickness of piano strings, which is called scaling. The piece was performed with Paul Pinto and included songs with a circuit-bended keyboard called the newbit. The newbit is like the cyborg of the keyboard family.

I would not be surprised if no one in the audience made any explicit connection between my songs and environmental politics. I think to do so at the get-go would be to miss the point. Most songs about the environment are cheesy because they are nearsighted, reminding us that we love the earth without examining our complicated relationships to responsibility and materiality. Singing about love songs in the presence of a houseplant that was never openly discussed, “Scaling” evoked nature without ever naming it as such-focusing attention on the exisitng relationships rather than the individual players.