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Instruments

Liszt on the piano

In its span of seven octaves [the piano] embraces the range of an orchestra; the ten fingers of a single man suffice to render the harmonies produced by the combined forces of more than 100 concerted instruments. We make arpeggios like the harp, prolonged notes like wind instruments, staccatos, and a thousand other effects which […]

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Performers and performances Instruments

Hough and Schnabel on piano rolls

I want to believe in piano rolls. The idea that we can insert an object into a present-day piano and hear long-dead pianists and composers perform again as if they were in the same room is a tantalisingly attractive prospect. It has a magical aura about it. But, I’m afraid, it’s a conjuring trick, or […]

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Instruments Style

‘Real’ instruments in popular music

“We’re seeing a big evolution of production, of recording techniques, and of the actual sounds. Everything’s getting sampled and synthesized…. When we do have an acoustic instrument like a saxophone, it tends to get processed to where [it’s] almost unrecognizable.” Jeff Harrington, saxophonist. Cited in, Kelsey McKinney, “Where Did All the Saxophones Go?”,        https://getpocket.com/explore/item/where-did-all-the-saxophones-go?utm_source=pocket-app&utm_medium=share, accessed 29 […]

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Instruments

Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy

One of the most magical passages in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy. The featured instrument, the celeste, was a relatively new invention, having only been developed by a Parisian harmonium builder, Auguste Mustel, in 1886. The French word “céleste” translates to “heavenly”. Tchaikovsky first discovered the celeste while visiting Paris […]

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Instruments

The Jankó Keyboard

The Hungarian mathematician, Paul von Jankó developed an alternate layout to the traditional piano keyboard. In July 1888, upon seeing a performance in London by John Carlowitz Ames, The Musical Times reported: The clever idea, which suggested itself to the inventor as a means for overcoming the difficulty of stretching long intervals on the pianoforte […]

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Instruments

The tone of the piano at the turn of the nineteenth century

In 1796, the piano maker Johann Andreas Streicher sent Beethoven one of his pianos as a gift.  Beethoven's reply sheds some interesting light on the tone of the piano at this time: There is no doubt that so far as the manner of playing is concerned, the pianoforte is still the least studied and developed […]

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Instruments

After music from a bridge, why not a tower?

To mark the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage up the Hudson river in New York, composer Joseph Bertolozzi sampled sounds of percussively hitting various parts of the bridge.  He now has his sights set on using the Eiffel Tower.  Wakin, Daniel, ""After Music from a Bridge, Why Not A Tower?"", Arts Beat, 8 July […]

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Instruments

Some curious devices

In the late nineteenth-century, some quite curious mechanical inventions were created to deal with the body with relation to pianists and conductors.    The following is an account of a presentation by T. L. Southgate on The Physiology of Pianoforte Piano. The paper presented was written by W. Macdonald Smith.  This account appeared in the […]

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Instruments

A mystery instrument created

Mozart’s Magic Flute uses a glass harmonica or keyed glockenspiel to represent a set of magic bells. “Mozart’s original score for the 1791 opera The Magic Flute called for a glass harmonica or keyed glockenspiel to represent a set of magic bells. The instruments were obscure even in Mozart’s day but more than 200 years after his […]

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Instruments

A $1.2 million piano

“Spotlights dance down on 216 jewels of lead crystal, set in dazzling diamond patterns into the piano’s black lid, sides, legs, fallboard and bench. Each jewel features several hundred to several thousand intricately cut, ground and polished pieces of crystal — nearly a half-million in all.” Glass artist Jon Kuhn has collobarated with Bosendorfer to […]