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Norges musikkhøgskole Norwegian Academy of Music Search

Listen­ing Pian­ist

  • Duration: One semester, spring.
  • Final assessment: Assessment by the course instructor.
  • Language of tuition: English.

The course is aimed towards pianists and composers.

Course description

It may sound otherworldly beautiful, subtle, mechanical or brutally harsh - most professional instrumentalists today are familiar with so-called extended techniques that offer their instrument a much greater variety of sounds than musicians only decades ago knew of. While microtones, pitch bend/glissandi, timbral trills, gradually changing the timbre of a sustained sound and various percussive sounds have become standardized among most instruments, this has all seemed somewhat inaccessible on the piano.

There are however many works today, also chamber/ensemble works that invite the pianist to listen to the vast possibilities of timbral variation of the piano, so let’s give it a try.

Learning objectives

After completing the course, students are expected to

  • be familiar with a larger range of extended piano techniques, and examples of notation
  • be familiar with several pianos works using such techniques
  • have practical experience in how one effectively can make each sound as characteristic as possible
  • have an awareness of instrument safety (knowing how to leave the instrument in a better shape than one found it)


In this one-semester elective course, composers and pianists will learn about the contemporary piano – all through focusing on the timbral possibilities of piano preparation and other piano sounds.

Pianists will get to know their own instrument better, and playing such repertoire can even develop new listening skills that might be useful in f.ex chamber music.

Also, the composers will need to try out short extracts on the piano, in order to get familiar with both the physical possibilities and barriers of the instrument. Furthermore, they are welcome to contribute to the course by writing sketches or even work, that the pianists can perform.

Some of the topics included:

  • Nodes/harmonic series on the piano.
  • How John Cage prepares the piano.
  • Techniques in George Crumb’s piano works.
  • Suggesting a “piano kit” for the contemporary pianist?
  • Instrument safety.


There are 12 weekly lessons, each 90 minutes long.

The classes will take shape as a combination of lectures and workshops.

A repertoire list suggesting works/extracts will be handed out at the beginning of the course, but it is also possible to suggest other repertoires.

After the first introduction lectures, then 1 to 2 participants will in every class present a work (or extracts) that includes relevant challenges. The desired sounding result, and how to effectively notate and realize it, will be discussed in the group.

Course requirements

  • Active class participation is mandatory.
  • The student must give a presentation of a work/extracts that includes relevant challenges. The pianists may perform examples; the composers may present their own composed sketches/works.

Final assessment

Student assessment is based on the learning objectives.

The final assessment will be given as a pass/fail mark, which will be determined by the course instructor based on each student’s level of achievement throughout the course period.

New assessment: In the case of re-assessment, the same procedures apply.

Published: Mar 19, 2021 — Last updated: Apr 7, 2021