Xenia Pestova Bennett


Xenia Pestova Bennett

Magnetic Resonator Piano solo


Xenia Pestova Bennett – Glowing Radioactive Elements
Ollie Hawker – Its Not something I ever thought would be the case
Rebecca Galian Castello – Wait in the car
Scott McLaughlin – Individuation Study #1
Alvin Lucier – Music for Piano with Slow Sweep Pure Wave Oscillators (1992)


Xenia Pestova Bennett – Glowing Radioactive Elements (2018-19) for magnetic resonator piano

“Dispositioned traces of glowing matter slip into our cells, into the spaces between our bodies, into ourselves…”

– Eve Andree Laramee, “Tracking Our Atomic Legacy: Now We Are All Sons of Bitches.” Women Eco Artists Dialog, Issue Number 5, 2012


“Glowing Radioactive Elements” started life as a semi-improvised piece with four movements. Radium is an element which glows pale blue, Plutonium glows deep red, Tritium is green and the gas Radon is yellow at its freezing point, and orange-red below. I added the fifth, obsessively-repetitive loop Actinium before a concert in Düsseldorf. This element is silvery-white, glowing blue.

Ollie Hawker – Its Not something I ever thought would be the case
It’s not something I ever thought would be the case is an exploration of tension and release. When I first got the chance to hear and play the magnetic resonator piano, the sound of the dissonances slingshotting back into consonance really captured my attention, and so this is what I based the piece around.

I’d like to thank Andrew McPherson and everybody at the Augmented Instruments Lab for creating and supporting such an amazing instrument. I’d also like to thank Matthew Whiteside and The Night With… for supporting this project.

And finally I’d like to thank Xenia Pestova Bennett, for whom It’s not something I ever thought would be the case was written, for all their help in writing and workshopping the piece.

Rebecca Galian Castello – Wait in the car
‘Wait in the car’ was written for prepared magnetic resonator piano. This piece reflects the composer’s interest in noisy textures and distortion, and explores ways to sustain and enhance these sounds on the magnetic resonator piano. Finding inspiration in mechanical sounds and motors, ‘Wait in the car’ showcases the instrument as a sort of hybrid machine, with stalling gestures and a constant buzz and fuzz. 

Scott McLaughlin – Individuation Study #1
The MRP (magnetic resonator piano) is a beautiful tension of opposing forces, bridged by Xenia. The piano hammers strike the strings to make a sound that can only fall and decay, and the magnetic resonators excite the strings to perpetually lift and sustain. But all moments act on the resonance of the strings and emerge from that complex of metal-under-tension. This is the material centre,  where actions are repeatedly cast against the contingency of vibrating metal to reveal something individual to that moment of performance, and then to fold that energy back into the material as part of the next moment’s emergence. While all is held in balance by the pianist, suspending music in the air like a balloon held aloft by breath. As Gilbert Simondon puts it, “The principle of individuation is the singular manner in which the internal resonance of this matter about to take this form is established. […] The principle of individuation is the allagmatic operation common to matter and form through the actualization of potential energy. This energy is the energy of a system […] This operation depends on the singularity or singularities of the concrete here and now; it envelops them and amplifies them.” (Individuation in Light of Notions of Form and Information, p. 32)
Scott McLaughlin

Alvin Lucier – Music for Piano with Slow Sweep Pure Wave Oscillators (1992) for piano and fixed media
“Two pure wave oscillators slowly sweep around a central tone. As they do so, the pianist plays single tones and intervals against them, causing audible beats to sound at speeds determined by the distances between the piano sounds and those of the sweeping oscillators. The farther apart, the faster the beating. At unison, no beating occurs. Under certain acoustical conditions, the beating may be heard to spin through space.”
– Alvin Lucier

Artist biographies

Described as “a powerhouse of contemporary keyboard repertoire” (Tempo), pianist and composer Xenia Pestova Bennett has earned an international reputation as a leading proponent of uncompromising music. Her work spans a wide range of sound worlds, styles and genres from classical to contemporary art music, free improvisation, experimental electronica and avant-pop.

Since receiving the unanimous First Prize at the Xavier Montsalvatge International Piano Competition in Girona, Spain and prizes at the Messiaen International Piano Competition in Paris and the KeriKeri Piano Competition of New Zealand, Xenia has performed in over 20 countries – at international festivals, in concert halls, tropical rainforests, caves, ponds and countless weird and wonderful venues and spaces. She explores classical music boundaries with electronics, toy pianos, synthesizers and the magical and mysterious Magnetic Resonator Piano.

Xenia Pestova Bennett is featured at festivals and venues around the world, including appearances at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, National Concert Hall in Dublin, Sage Gateshead, Glasgow Royal Concert Halls, Philharmonie Luxembourg, Festival Archipel (Geneva), Approximation (Dusseldorf), Ars Musica (Brussels), Christchurch Arts Festival (New Zealand), Lanaudière (Canada), London Contemporary Music Festival, Musica (Strasbourg), Sonorities (Belfast), Spark (USA), Rainy Days (Luxembourg) and Voix Nouvelles Royaumont (France).

Pestova Bennett’s commitment to contemporary music inspired her to commission dozens of new works and collaborate closely with major innovators including Annea Lockwood, Karlheinz Essl and Gayle Young. Her nine studio albums to date include widely acclaimed recordings of core piano duo works by John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen with Pascal Meyer for Naxos Records, “Shadow Piano” (Innova) for piano, toy piano and electronics, a “terrific album of dark, probing music” (Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader), the complete piano works by Gayle Young (Farpoint), hailed as “a triumph” (John Eyles, All About Jazz), and “Gold.Berg.Werk” (Ergodos), a reimagining of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations by Karlheinz Essl described as “a sci-fi journey in the direction of 1741” (Luke Clancy, RTE Lyric FM).

Xenia’s own compositions are available on Diatribe Records and TakuRoku. Her full-length album “Atomic Legacies” features Ligeti Quartet and the Magnetic Resonator Piano. Highlighted in Bandcamp’s “Best of Contemporary Classical” in 2020, the album was reviewed as “boldly conceived and brilliantly realised… a foretaste of things to come” (Julian Cowley, The Wire), “intoxicating, extraordinarily eerie and evocative” (Bernard Clarke, RTE LyricFM), “melancholy… heart-swells and proper feelings” (Jennifer Lucy Allan, The Quietus) and “a nuclear musical reaction that produces great, irradiated beauty” (Tom Service, BBC Radio 3). Xenia’s subsequent “Atonal Electronic Chamber Music for Cats” takes an unexpected turn-around, using vintage synthesizers in an exploration of 1990’s techno-art-pop nostalgia.

Xenia studied piano and composition in New Zealand, the UK, the Netherlands, France and Canada. She holds a Doctorate from McGill University. During a twelve-year career in academia, she was Head of Performance at Bangor University in North Wales, Director of Performance and Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham and visiting Professor of Music at Gresham College, London. Her interest in health and optimal performance led to extensive accredited teacher training in yoga, breathwork and meditation practices. In addition to her performance career, Xenia is in demand as a wellbeing instructor, coach and lecturer for organisations and educational institutions around the world. In 2022 and 2023, she presented 66 workshops in secondary schools across Ireland reaching 580 participants in an ambitious “Befriending Anxiety” programme with The Music Network. She is a published author with a book on performance anxiety management and co-editor of the Living Music book series with Christopher Dingle.

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