NSO Blog by Hinano Ishii – Part Pianist, Part Cleaning Crew

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Our Pianist Lisa introduces herself as the Cleaning Crew to our Conductor…

Posted by Hinano Ishii Friday, July 18, 2014
Hinano Ishii is the NSO Operations Intern.

Before the first rehearsal of our upcoming 2001: A Space Odyssey (which will be performed by the National Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, July 19th from 8:30 PM at Wolf Trap), NSO’s pianist Lisa Emenheiser introduced herself backstage as the “cleaning crew” to conductor Emil de Cou, holding out four or five different kinds of scrubbing brushes.


Normally, people make a trip to Home Depot when they need necessary tools to fix the floors or paint the walls. In Lisa’s case, she stopped by her local Home Depot to grab a couple of kitchen and bathroom scrubbing brushes to play on her piano!


The music for 2001: A Space Odyssey includes Atmospheres composed by György Ligeti. This piece calls for the lid to be removed from the grand piano, as the sounds come from bristles sweeping the strings inside. Two pianists, each standing on opposite sides of the top-less piano, will reach over to draw the various types of bristles across specific parts of the strings.


The Scotch-Brite Hand and Nail brush, which often comes in handy for cleaning dirty sinks, is used in the upper register to create high pitch noises. Scrubbing brushes are not the only equipment used on the piano strings at this concert. Lisa and guest keyboardist, Eric Schnobrick, also sweep cloth on the lower-middle strings to create the quiet yet spine-chilling sound, and jazz rakes to produce the loudest sound effect.


Who knew that house cleaning products can be used to play instruments! Our pianists are thrilled to play with the various Home Depot gears in the music Atmospheres as used in the ground-breaking 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Audiences will enjoy the National Symphony Orchestra’s live performance while watching the enigmatic and compelling film on an enormous screen at Wolf Trap. Before the performance, join us in celebrating the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing with NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin and our conductor Emil de Cou at a free discussion event from 7pm on the Associates Deck!


(Left to right: Emil de Cou, Lisa Emenheiser, Eric Schnobrick)