extended piano techniques


Katharina Bleier, extended piano techniques. Perspectives on selected piano works 1981–2018

PhD-Diss, University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna 2021




For more than a century, many composers have been involved in extracting new sounds and perspectives from the all too familiar instrumental icon of the 19th century, subsumed under the term “extended piano techniques.” Studies of the topic to date have focused on historical progressive thinking which proceeds from successive and stringent development of extended piano techniques, whereby innovation is equated with introducing new techniques, preparatory materials and effects. Furthermore, the orientation is mostly pianistic-practical.

This examination concentrates on works by 14 composers from 1981 to 2018, analysed with regard to differentiation of the functions of extended piano techniques in the works’ contexts and comparison across the works. Three topic areas – instrumentation, sonic composition and theatrics – form the overriding theme; in detail, other perspectives and the composers’ positions on the instrument per se and on specific use of extended piano techniques are included. Equal value is attached to multidimensionality and originality of the individual characteristics and the factors named in the comparative analysis.

The result of the work analysis reveals a broad spectrum of extended piano technique applications: from systematic integration in   a formula composition to improvisational freeform, from instrumentation in a fairly traditional formal-structural context to generative instrument­tation derived from the sonic entity, from individualising the idiom to criticism and persiflage of the instrument and its socio-cultural milieu. In addition, it will be seen that, due to no longer unrestrictedly applicable norms, generalising assessment as expansion or innovation is open to debate.


compositions by George Crumb; Anna Thorvaldsdottir; Jörg Widmann; Mario Bertoncini; Annea Lockwood; Mark Andre; Alberto Posadas; Maurizio Azzan; Thomas Larcher; Adriana Hölszky; Christoph Renhart; Moritz Eggert; Karlheinz Stockhausen; Olga Neuwirth;