Department of Music

Flowing Under Ice

This project will bring together remarkable sounds of frozen rivers and waterfalls with live piano improvisation together with radical Canadian composer and instrument designer  Gayle Young.

Principal Investigator: Dr Xenia Pestova Bennett




Gayle Young’s music challenges instrumental constraints through unconventional tuning and timbre. Close collaboration with the composer is integral to the success of the venture due to the fact that the new work embraces improvisational approaches, and the performer’s input is vital in both the early stages through feedback on sketches, and as the piece evolves through repeated performances.

This project will provide an unprecedented opportunity to take risks by combining the seemingly disparate worlds of the concert grand piano with sound art and create microtonal tuning combinations between the piano and the electronic elements.

Field recordings of water flowing under ice recorded in three contrasting locations will describe a quintessential Canadian winter soundscape of:

  • an ice-covered waterfall
  • the shoreline of a lake at freeze-up
  • a bridge over a frozen river with passing traffic

all recorded through resonant tubes of different lengths.

This unusual technique creates striking and aurally beguiling effects, amplifying different harmonic resonances and drawing the listener into the sounds and inviting engagement with the environment and human impact on nature. The piano will inhabit and weave a unique path through this soundscape, guiding the listener.

Current work

  • Collaboration on the creation of a new piece, recording, performances and dissemination of all three pieces in 2020.
  • Engagement with this project provides an ideal opportunity to feature music that is not easily definable in terms of genre terminology, and fits "between the cracks" of audience expectations.
  • Presenting three works with clear environmental connections will enable us to tap into a wider range of listeners and have an impact beyond the contemporary classical audience bracket, while also sharing the sounds of the Canadian winter in a musical context beyond Canada.

Past work

  • Premiere of “Ice Creek” for piano and fixed media by Gayle Young: Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 2018
  • Premiere of “As Trees Grow” for piano and live electronics by Gayle Young: London, UK 2017


We acknowledge the support of the  Canada Council for the Arts.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien.
Canadian Council for the Arts logo


Department of Music

The University of Nottingham
Lakeside Arts Centre
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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