The physics inside piano website

July 22, 2007

The Piano Paradox two ways of conceive the piano

  1. Man of science point of view
  2. Artist point of view
  3. Agreement of perception

partial comment on a note from Mr. Brent Gillespie

The term paradox comes from the Greek paradoxos, which means "conflicting with expectation" and refers to some idea which has the appearance of being logically true, but which is in fact so absurd that it cannot possibly be true. Because a paradox is derived validly from its premises, this means that at least one of the premises is incorrect and must be abandoned. Paradoxes are effective tools for demonstrating that some commonly assumed idea does not necessarily deserve our unquestioning adherence, and we are going to see this is the case on piano functionement and music appreciation.

Paradoxes in science are not rare, paradox does not mean contradiction, however many paradoxes do not yet have universally accepted resolutions. But what is incumbent of this with pianoforte? The fact is that there is a paradox in understanding the piano, but in which way can be visualized?. One begins saying that the paradox process is similar to the use of reductio ad absurdum, which involves taking some premise to a logical conclusion that is shown to be absurd... an apparently true statement leads to a contradiction or a situation which defies intuition. The statements that are exposed here do not really imply a contradiction, the premises themselves are not all "really" true or cannot all be true together, but whereas an apparent contradiction asserts its own opposite this paradox do allow for resolution of some kind.

So looking at the piano there are two points of view apparently in contrast: the point of view of the scientist and point of view of the artist. The man of science, who is mainly interested in understanding and perfection the piano design, finds inevitable to review his convictions about the instrument with that one of musicians, whose interest is focused in musical expressivity.

The man of science indicates the simple principles by which the piano sounds and the corresponding small amount of controls which regard such principles, and which are available to the pianist on the keyboard. He underlines the fact that a piano is basically a percusive instrument.

The musician from the other hand indicates the rich musicality that the piano can produce, underlining not only the shadows of harmony and phraseology but also the color and the force of tonality; the professional pianist is able to exhibit independent control on everyone of this last elements of interpretation, but granted the degree of uncoupling the instrument impose between the fingers of the pianist and its mechanism which produces the sound, the musician must recognise that is not at all apparent how this instrument can be used to produce music able to evoque rich aesthetics concepts.

The design of electronic pianos could establish conciliatory points of view, by far, in developing devices and algorithms to piano sound emulation, although professional pianists are conscious that electronic synthesis of piano sounds - at the current state-of-the-art - are only poor insufficient substitute of acoustic piano sound and touch sensation.

However, both ways of relating to pianos are not contradictory ...



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