Gaëtan Robillard

Glenn Gould Chair on Aria from 32 Goldberg Variations, 2’14”, 2012

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ALBUM
Gaëtan Robillard in conversation with piano tuner Ciaran Rian
Dublin, Museum of Modern Art, May 2011

GR : So Ciaran, where do you come from today?

CR : I left Galway at about 8 o’clock last night. I knew the setup for this concert today was going to be early, and I have some friends in Dublin that I wanted to see, so I came up last night, and stayed in Dublin. So yeah, I got up here, it was an easy morning, really.

GR : Could you describe me a bit the road you took from Galway to Dublin?

CR : Galway is not so far away, it’s just a couple of hours, so. The road from Galway to Dublin used to be quite interesting, It was small roads, and went through lot’s and lot’s of different towns but recently Ireland, well a while ago Ireland had a lot of money, we don’t have money at all now. And we built lot’s of motorways, but rather the European Union built lot’s of motorways for us.

GR : Why did you choose to leave in Galway?

CR : I’ve been leaving in Galway now for maybe 20 years, when I first came to Ireland, I was looking for a place. It had to be beside the sea. It had to be big enough to have enough of a population so that I could have a business there. so there’s be enough piano to tune, and there was a choice of three places maybe… Sligo, Tralee, or Galway, they’re all towns on the west coast. And we chose Galway. I didn’t know any people there, I don’t have any family there, I have no connections to the place at all, I just felt good.

GR : Where were you living before being in Galway?

CR : I was living for a little while in Dublin, but I grew up in New Zealand. So I left New Zealand after secondary school, and touring around for a while, did different things… and came to Ireland in 1995. And I lived here since then.

GR : Is it important for you to live on an island for the work you are doing ? How did you choose the workshop where you live ? You told me that you’re installed on the seashore…

CR : Humm, I never really considered important to be on an island, New Zealand is an island, Ireland as well, but I couldn’t do the work I’m doing now in a country like in New Zealand. Ireland is small. I suppose you could be living anywhere as long as there is a population. but it’s… The work I do, it’s good to be able to do it in Ireland because you can see the same people on a regular basis. There’s nowhere in Ireland from Galway that is more than 3 or 4 hours drive. I’ve always lived beside the sea. I’ve done work in Madrid and in Berlin, at different time as well. And for more than 10 days without seeing the sea, it just feel strange for me, I feel like I’m missing something. Where we are now is very close to the sea. You can hear the sea at night. And I think when you do that, for most of your life, if somebody takes that away, or if you can’t hear it, then you miss it. And there’s must be the whole sense of being very close to a force, a gravity, the tides, when you’re that near to it.

GR : Could you describe me a bit more the work you are doing here?

CR : We are in the Irish Museum of Modern Art, in the great hall and the building used to be a military hospital and was converted maybe fifteen years ago, maybe more, into the Irish Museum of Modern Art. When I arrived, the fisrt thing was to make sure that the stage was set up, and was ready to put the piano on. Because the stage is quite high, I brought a ramp. So you roll the piano out of the van, it’s on its side. Put it on the legs on. And put it on a trolley, and then you can wheel the piano into the theater space, you also bring the ramp, and a box with the legs and the pedals in it. Set up the ramp on the stage leave the piano on the trolley and push it up the ramp and onto the stage. And put the legs on the piano, and set it up, put the pedals on, make sure they work. It all happens quite quickly, maybe fifteen, twenty minutes. And then, do the tuning. Make sure it’s at the correct pitch. And it’s ready for rehearsals.

GR : And then, what happens when the concert finishes?

CR : At the end of the night, as soon as the audience has left, There will be myself, there will be someone with the sound gear, someone with the lights, there will be maybe five or six of us all attacking the stage to strip it, as quickly as possible. The music stands, the chairs, the monitors on the stage, all the microphones, the microphones stands, all the leads, and at the middle of all of that, I’ll be working. I’ll get the cover on the piano, attach the transportation sleeds to the side of it, put up the ramp, take the legs off, put it on its side, and then roll it down the ramp and get it back into the van as quickly as possible.

GR : What would be the first thing you do when you are back home?

CR : I’d probably let the dogs out, they’ll wake up when I come home, and depend on how late it is, maybe watching some TV’s.

GR : Going back to your home and your workshop, how is the geography of the place?

CR : In Galway, The workshop we live is maybe ten miles outside Galway, on the coast. It’s in the country. The workshop is attached to the house. On a small country road, we have farmland around us. It’s very quiet. On clear nights, driving home, it’s one of the wonderful things is if you get a clear night, there is very little lights from any cities around. So you get wonderful views at the stars. But really doing this on a regular basis, you get home, you let the dogs out, you let the dogs in again, and go to bed, it’s a working day.

GR : I’d like you now to think about a scenario: you are walking on the beach, it’s a concert day, you know that you will work, and you will have to get on the road, and you’re discovering an image just here, on the ground. You take it in your hand and look shortly at it. What would be that image for you?

CR : I’m not quite sure about what you mean. What image would I have? In my head? The story I understood, yeah, I’m on the beach, I’m ready to go to work soon. I don’t know, I’m not following you here.

GR : If you have to imagine an image during a working day, what would be that image : your house, your workshop, or maybe an image of something, or of someone you want to be with, a place where you want to go?

CR : I think I know. I spend a lot of time on my own, driving, so my head is always full of lot’s of things. I love the time it’s thinking, specifically about work, different projects. I coach rugby so I spend a lot’s of time figuring out what I’m going to do during the next training sessions with the kids, and where I have to be, and making lists in my head of things I have to do. But the relaxing images that the day dream wins… There are always places I go back to in my head. Whether it’s the garden, which is a lovely place for me to grow vegetables, or I have good friends, and spend a lot’s of time in Havana, so, the streets of Havana are very familiar to me. My parents still live in New Zealand, so there are places in New Zealand that are always in my head as well. But there would never be just one particular thing on this image.