Lady Gaga, Elton John and a Beautiful Baldwin
Artist Terence Koh Talks About Designing The Dual-Sided Piano For This Year's Grammys' Most Stunning Performance
The buzz surrounding the Grammy Awards duet between Lady Gaga and Elton John lingered all last week, with postings of the glam-stoked performance appearing all over the web. The dual-sided Baldwin piano at which Sir Elton and Gaga sat cut a dazzling figure in its own right - its most striking feature being the claw-hand arms jutting upwards from its surface.
Applying his talents to two Baldwin acoustic pianos, Terence Koh helped provide the Grammys with one of the most memorable moments in its history. So pleased was Lady Gaga with his efforts, in fact, that she's already commissioned him to fashion yet another Baldwin for her live shows. One of the art world’s most provocative young visionaries, Koh has seen his work featured in major exhibitions around the world.
In the following interview, Koh talks about the challenges involved with the project.
Did Lady GaGa come up with the vision for the dual-piano? Did Elton John -- or people acting on his behalf -- have creative input, as well?
I was approached by Lady Gaga to help visualize the duet between her and Elton. Since they would be singing and playing the piano together, I had the idea that they should be playing at the same piano, facing each other. I was given a lot of freedom as an artist to do pretty much what I wanted.
What did the arms and hands represent?
The hands were based on sculptures of hands I had done in a previous exhibition. Lady Gaga and I then thought it would be great for the hands to be claw-like, in dedication to her fans making a claw-shaped "monster hand." It was an homage to when you go to her concerts and you see a wave of those hands, which Lady Gaga calls her "little monsters.” It was about a sea of love and affection.
What was the idea behind the face-paint and ash that was smeared onto the faces of Elton and GaGa?
The idea for her to be thrown into an oven had already been conceptualized. Therefore it was only natural that Elton and Gaga should "emerge” for the performance together - maybe like a phoenix -- “ashed” as well.
What was the most difficult challenge involved in constructing the piano?
Well, I don't think anybody has ever done a Siamese piano like that. We had about five days to make it happen, so the logistics of taking new pianos and putting them together as one piano took a lot of thinking and planning.
Is it true that the second piano had been used previously in the feature film Poseidon? Was there something about its design for that project that made it especially suitable for this one?
It is true that the other piano was used in Poseidon, but that was just a coincidence. It just happened that the piano was available for us to saw it in half. But there was nothing “dead” about it. In fact, two lives were born.
Did Elton John and Lady GaGa have an opportunity to try out the piano prior to the performance?
They did rehearsals the day before the Grammys, and both were very happy to be playing on it. It was also designed so that they could see each other between the sea of hands. That was really important - that they be able to see each other clearly while playing the piano. It brings to my mind the composition by John Cage, “Music for Two Pianos.”
To have accomplished this project in just five days is remarkable. Had you done a similar project before, that prepared you well for this one?
No. I am learning like a child, as I go along.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Writer: Russ Hall