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Interactive Annual 19:

Stanley Piano

Launch Movie

“How do you take a traditional object, like a player piano, from the past and turn it into a modern digital experience? This interactive installation ties together new and old technology by leveraging the power of music and Twitter.”
—Sophie Henry

“A simple concept that intersected social online and off.” —Perry Fair

Overview: This project reimagines the player piano as the world’s first instrument to have a conversation with its audience and field its own song requests. As a way to support Seattle’s independent music scene, Stanley first appeared at the Capitol Hill Block Party ready to play music from a selection of indie artists appearing at the fest. A player piano with a limited repertoire was transformed when Stanley’s piano roll was replaced with hardware that enabled each key to be controlled by a note in a digital music file. People interacted with Stanley live at the festival, on its Twitter account and over a live HTML5 video feed on, the main hub for the Stanley experience.

  • • Every song that Stanley played had to be created from scratch or modified from an existing MIDI file. In some case, the full arrangement (vocals, drums, bass) of the song was transcribed by hand for the piano.
  • • To control the piano keys, facilitate dialogue with Stanley and field song requests, Digital Kitchen built a custom tool (STANFORD) to manage social interactions from Twitter and a live crowd.
  • • Stanley resonated with thousands of people, blogs and news outlets around the world—totaling more than 25 million PR impressions.

Comments by Matt Mulder

How did time constraints affect your final solution? “The limited time was beneficial in that it forced us to stay focused on the core challenge. There was no shortage of ideas about nuancing the experience, however given more time I think we would have ended up with too many bells and whistles.”

Were there any specific demands that made the project easier or harder? “We went the extra mile to get permission to use songs from the performers at the Block Party. Our lawyer was so into the concept that he volunteered to make contact with over 100 performers in a little over a week.”

Did you learn anything new during the process? “Do not take apart a vintage player piano until you know what’s inside.”


Ben Chaykin, interactive designer/hardware developer
Demetre Arges/David Mikula, creative directors
Alaa Mendili, interactive creative director
Matt Mulder, executive creative director
Cara McKinley, interactive developer
Koji Minami/Raul Villalobos, artists
Josh Hayward, video director
Dave Brown/Paul Williamson, producers
Eric Oldrin, executive agency producer
Digital Kitchen (Seattle, WA), project design and development

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