Abandoned Pianos

Music for a computer-controlled piano.

Capturing and conveying emotion with their instrument is the goal of almost every musician, but it’s also one of the hardest feats to accomplish. It’s a difficult challenge to overcome, but it is one that Michael Gary Dean has risen to on his debut release, Abandoned Pianos, recorded in January 2020 during a residency at the Banff Centre in Western Canada.

Previously operating and releasing under the name Wiklow, Dean’s past output has been predominantly electronic. As a lifelong, self-taught piano player, Dean has shifted focus, using the piano as a vehicle for conveying his inner world. For him, the instrument allows him to become lost, immersed and almost intoxicated with it.

The huge number of discarded and “free” pianos on the streets of Montréal provided the inspiration for Abandoned Pianos. It was also a period of Dean’s life where he was getting ready to leave his home in Montréal and establish himself in Europe. The emotional preparation for this impending upheaval, the uncertain outcome, and the knowledge that the journey must be taken anyway, are all feelings that he drew on.

The album is filled with raw moments of reflection and contemplation on the transience of life and relationships. The songs have weight without being heavy and are melancholic yet hopeful, and remind us that there is both beauty and sadness inherent in change.

Release notes from Abandoned Pianos released by Reclusive Strategies.

Performance Setup

A computer-controlled piano is accompanied by string instruments and live electronics. Instruments are mic’d and processed by live electronics. Scenographic elements like venue lighting interact with live audio and performance data from the computer.

Running Time



A MIDI-controlled acoustic piano. PA sound system.


Michael Gary Dean [michaeldean.ca]

String Ensemble: Freddy Speer, Anne-Louise Gilbert, Amanda Gibeau
Art Direction: Cadie Desbiens-Desmeules
Musician Consultation: Amanda Gibeau, Gabriel Vinuela
Text: Jonny Tiernan [ https://jonnytiernan.com/ ]
Photos: Donald Lee, Sébastien Roy, Bruno Destombes

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. The creation of this work was made possible thanks to the financial support of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.