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Re: A piano is a piano is...


> If one is going to challenge, from an ethnomusicological point of
> view, the idea that an acoustic piano, as opposed to an electronic
> piano, is the "real" piano

I am sorry if I caused some confusion in my post.  I suppose the main
issue is, how significant is the difference, to the human mind, of
various sounds of the piano-type.  All sounds must be mediated through
the human body, whether by the ear (which we consider to be the most
common channel) or directly through the skin as with pulsating bass
sounds in a discotheque.  In this respect, the only "real piano" is that
(or those) sound-construct(s) in our own minds that we refer to as "the
piano."  This sound may be produced by that old wooden and steel
contraption we call the acoustic piano, or by synthesis, or internally,
through the result of pure memory.

> then cultural theory is wreaking havoc upon the traditional way
> ethnomusicologists classify instruments. >From the latter point of
> view a piano is a plucked zither.

I don't quite understand how we got to this problem of cultural theory
wreaking havoc; customarily, ethnomusicology classifies the piano as a
"struck zither"; a harpsichord would be an example of a plucked zither.

> Some piano synthesis algorithms do not even model a plucked zither.

No surprise here.

> So if the definition of the piano is to be expanded, who wins, the
> anthropologists or the organologists?

Organologist's taxonomies are typically based on some mixture of the
mechanisms by which instruments generate sound, and the material basis
and shapes of the sound-producing instruments.  In my opinion, what we
need are taxonomies of the sounds themselves, and this seems to be what
at least some researchers on the Auditory list are devoted to.  The
traditional taxonomies kind of work, because there is a certain degree
of correspondance between instrument shape or type (reed, brass, plucked
strings) and the resultant sound.  In the age of synthesizers, this
correspondance breaks down.  I made my post because I wanted to remind
myself that my daughter recognized (or claimed to recognize) the piano
as such, and it was through hearing a piano modified through pretty bad
radio speakers.  So, I'm not surprised that people can't tell the
difference between a synthesized piano sound, and the so-called "real
thing".  I did not intend to posit the idea that the acoustic piano was
the Ur-Piano.  Sorry!

Andrew Kaye

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