Butterfly piano

00.0056 ButterflyPiano.tif

Dublin Core


Butterfly piano



Iron, wood, steel, ivory, ebony, nails.

Keen to explore the possibilities of Free Music, but lacking instruments that would readily play the ‘noteless’ gliding tones it required, Grainger and Cross modified existing instruments to make approximations of the intended effect. This Butterfly piano has had its lid and front panels removed, and some of the strings have been lengthened using nails as supports. The strings have then been re-tuned to musical pitches much closer to each other than regular piano notes. This
instrument was tuned in 1/6 tones, so that playing a scale on it would produce a wave-like gliding tone effect.

Percy Grainger’s Daybooks 1944-1960
Excerpt: Friday 6 June 1952
‘Free Music Revamping Knoxville Butterfly Piano (Wurlitzer) & re-tuning it Three pitches to the 1/2 tone (got piano wire No. 13 from County Piano Co, $2.25)’
Excerpt Saturday 7 June 1952
‘Mr Hunt’s tuner helped on below Finished converting Knoxville piano to Free Music’.
Excerpt Saturday 14 June 1952
‘Burnett worked at Pianola on piano, loosening it up. Tried Pianola on sample bit of roll (cut by Burnett) on Knoxville piano, sounded well. PG made 4 discs (for front) 3 (green, red, yellow) with gramophone records, 1 with Burnett’s translucent blue plastic.’


1940. Modified by Percy Grainger and Burnett Cross, 1952