CH25: Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Photos of flaming grand pianos and vintage uprights smashed to smithereens. YouTube clips of Liberace sledgehammering his ivories on “The Monkees” variety hour. Kathleen Supové gets a kick out of all of it, and thanks you very much, friends and fans, for sending them her way. But her “Exploding Piano” pieces aren’t quite that literal. The contemporary pianist blows up conventions of the instrument’s uses and recitals—not to mention the catharsis from taking her seat behind one of her custom-designed instruments. She rigs her Yamahas with electronics that amplify and distort the chords, outfitting them with a spandex screen that fits the inner lid like a glove, showcasing projections that further her performances.

“It’s like a 21st century version of the ornately inscribed harpsichords from centuries ago,” says Supové of the imagery shown on the lid, which an extra-long pole lifts to a nearly 90-degree angle so it functions like a video screen. For her latest project, “Digital Debussy,” due out this fall, the Brooklyn-based dynamo commissioned various composers to interpret or reimagine Debussy’s music for her. “I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring,” she says of the compositions. “I particularly like pieces written in the last five years—or just out of the oven.”

Read more about Supové in her full CH25 profile.