The Piano of Light illuminates the house of Arrau in Chillan

It was impressive enough that Gabriel Peña, director of the interactive museum “Claudio Arrau León” attended a talk given by Dr. Carlos Saavedra, Scientific Director of the Center for Optics and Photonics (CEFOP) at the University of Concepción, about the work carried out during the successful traveling exhibition headed by CEFOP, “The Universe of Light”.  Even better, the museum director wanted to have one of the modules from the exhibition in his museum and, naturally that module was the “Piano of Light.”

After several meetings, an application was presented to the National Fund for Regional Development (FNDR), which was later approved, and a contract was signed between the city of Chillán and the Universidad de Concepción for the “reproduction of the interactive module: Piano of Light in the House of Arrau.” This project was carried out by CEFOP, a Center funded by Conicyt Basal financing, and SCI Design, which was in charge of the production.

In less than a year of that contract, the “Piano of Light” is already installed in the interactive room of the museum and was opened to visitors this week.  According to the museum director, the Piano of Light is designed to present to the public, especially to schoolchildren, a first approximation to the instrument where they can learn, for example, that a normal piano has 88 keys or different sounds, while the Piano of Light only has 16 sounds.

How does it work?

Its principle of operation is the photoresistor and an electronic circuit. According to the explanation given by Dr. Carlos Saavedra, “It is a variable resistance whose value can be controlled by the amount of light.  In practical terms, what we have in this Piano of Light is a light signal; a beam of light that travels through optical fibers and has a direct impact on this photoresistor.”

Now, when the passage of light is obstructed, the light signal decreases, modifying the value of resistance, thus activating a signal that allows the notes to be activated. “Ultimately, what you are doing is connecting and disconnecting in a controlled manner.”

Then, how can you generate sound? Dr. Saavedra pointed out that, “Each time the signal is interrupted, the note is activated. For example, this principal is used in elevators as an additional security when someone enters abruptly.  It stops the photoresistor and prevents the doors to close. Here, in the Piano of Light, it is used to activate a musical note.”

In this case, the light source is white LEDs, which the public cannot see, but they can see the light traveling through the fiber optics.


The module installed in the Museum, was redesigned completely by the company SCI Design, since the original version was developed to travel in Chile along with The Universe of Light exhibition. Thus, it became a completely different piece to its predecessor, but still maintained its principle of operation.

It flaunts a new design, attached to the wall, with materials such as glass, wood panels, and acrylic, among others. In short, a design was sought according to high standards of quality and aesthetics.


The Interactive Museum is located in the city of Chillán, the birthplace of Arrau, and it opened its doors in December of 2005 in order to honor and recognize this famous cultural figure of Chile. Included among the objectives of this space, are investigation, study, exhibition and dissemination of his possessions, and to offer information on the life and career of this great artist, as well as to promote music and encourage young talent on the piano.  This museum consists of a space that recreates the house of the well-known pianist and also contains musical archives from the Carmen Arrau library.

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