Friday, May 14, 2010

Richard Rigg & Fang Fang: "Ballade Op 23 Without Words" Workplace Gallery, 15th May 2010

Richard Rigg & Fang Fang

Ballade Op.23 (without words)

Saturday 15th May 2010

8.10pm & 9.20pm

(Gallery open from 7pm - 11pm for refreshments)

Richard Rigg's 2007 work Piano (a piano tuned entirely to Middle C) is played by concert pianist Fang Fang in a special performance for Tyneside's 'The Late Shows'.

Richard Rigg's sculptures look directly at paradox and conundrum through seemingly uncomplicated interventions or reworkings of objects. Rigg undermines our prescribed knowledge and conventional understanding of things; with simple actions he seems to undermine science, mathematics, and the foundations of culture, subverting them and proposing an ulterior route through our ontological understanding of the world. To this end his practice is destructive yet it remains faithfully optimistic in its address.

Through Ballade Op.23, Rigg's sculpture resolves its implied usage, activated by a classically trained concert pianist yet with each note of the keyboard set at 'Middle C', Rigg sets up an impossible challenge.

The term 'Ballade' (as opposed to Ballad) was originally applied by Chopin to a group of piano pieces in 1836. A radical shift away from the conventions of a Ballad, Chopin removed the human voice. In titling his instrumentals 'Ballade' Chopin implies a narrative through music or a or 'story in sound' where variations in harmonic arrangements, each phrase altering the next, offer a dialogic dynamic in the works, without words.

With the introduction of Print, Ballades were able to have a rich tradition in popular music. Though during the middle ages Ballads were used primarily as narrative works, the Ballade was a step away from it's historical connection with singing, dance and their folk foundations.

As a genre of verse the ballad can be briefly described as an anonymous narrative involving legendary or historical events, there is generally a tragic outcome and ballads are frequently associated with violence and the supernatural*

The crashing of a defiant act, followed at the end by retribution is articulated through a mediated distance via the Piano, interpreting and leveling its impact. By distilling the lyrical and dramatic narrative qualities into a rhythmic approach, there is an attempt to reclaim the essence of the 'Ballade' to its etymological folk origins.

* (F. E, Kirby 1995) Music for Piano - A Short History

Ballade Op.23 (without words) is part of The Late Shows,
Concurrent events will also be taking place in Gateshead Town Centre at The Shed and The Old Town Hall.
For more information visit:

Richard Rigg
Piano, (production photograph) 2007
Piano Entirely Tuned to Middle C
Courtesy of the artist and Workplace Gallery