A recital of your own – digital strategies for piano performances in pandemic times

Késia Decoté Rodrigues

Independent researcher, brazil


The context where the music experience happens has seen many transformations throughout history: from the exclusivity of performances to small groups in rooms of wealthy families, to the large scale of the concert hall and the anonymity of big audiences, until the ultimate individualistic experience of headphones in the contemporary times. It is known that the environment where music is played is not just a neutral container, but it indeed mediates the music experience, therefore it intrinsically influences the performance and the reception of music. Since March 2020, with the restrictions to live performance due to the new coronavirus pandemic, music performance has been through a fast change of environment once again with the rapid migration of concerts to the digital realm. While concert halls and theatres have to remain closed, the internet has been speedily filled with broadcasts of recorded and live performances. How is then the music experience affected in this current change of context where, although there is the possibility of a co-presence in time, suddenly performer and audience do not share the same space anymore? In particular, which impact this new type of mediation – the online domain with its diverse possibilities – may have on the practice of classical music performance? In this paper I discuss the experience of three online performances which I delivered during the coronavirus pandemic crisis in 2020, where each was presented exploring a different strategy: (1) 1 minute music was a series of one minute piano improvisations delivered to listeners individually through WhatsApp video call; (2) Full Moon was a live piano and toy piano performance broadcast as an Instagram Live event; (3) Piano miniaturas: video-recital was a Youtube concert featuring a prerecorded piano performance combined with images, in a proposal to explore the idea of video-art to present a piano performance. From the point of view of the performer, it is examined how each of these experiences affected the process of shaping the performance (which include, for example, choice of repertoire, performance space settings, and musical interpretive decisions). Observations about the experience of the delivery of the performances themselves are also made. These reflect particularly about the different levels of immediacy between performance and reception, also of interaction between performer and audience during and after the events. Finally, I reflect on how the learnings and insights from these experiences may have a lasting impact on my practice as a pianist.

Keywords: music performance, online concert, piano recital


Késia Decoté Rodrigues is a Brazilian pianist and toy pianist with a career focusing in contemporary music and interdisciplinary piano performance. Késia holds a PhD in Arts & Music (CNPq – Brazil Scholarship) and MA (Distinction) from Oxford Brookes University, MMus and BA (Cum laude) in Piano from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. Késia’s research explores the integration of concepts from theatre, dance and visual arts in piano performances, and it has been published as a book chapter, articles, conference proceedings and documented performances. Késia’s debut solo album with London-based label Nonclassical features piano and toy piano works dedicated to her by emerging UK-based composers. Késia has also released an album of improvisations with cellist Bruno Guastalla. Késia’s newest album presents a collection of piano miniatures written by composer Charlotte Botterill reflecting on her experience of the first lockdown due to the pandemic crisis in 2020.