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Talking piano: Sparky debate on the auditory list

Is it just me who was reminded of Sparky's Magic Piano?

Check out
and start the video after about 3 mins 15 seconds....


PS. Before anyone asks, no I was not around in the 1940s when this came out first....

Markus Noisternig wrote:
Dear All,

Peter Ablinger is a well known Austrian composer who is working on the spectral aspects of music since a long time. I had many chances listening to this computer-controlled piano live and I can fully assure you the veracity of the demonstration.

The automatic piano has been developed by Winfried Ritsch, associate professor at the Institute of Electronic Music and Acoustics in Graz Austria; the analysis software was mainly written by Thomas Musil. Both are very active members in the computer music and pure data community.

Can I suggest, from  looking at the machine, that it will be able to make sounds a human piano-player cannot: it appears to be able to hit all 88
notes simultaneously if required, each with a different strength

That's completely true and the only limitation in speed so far are the mechanics of the piano.

(i) this is a great many more notes than a pair of human hands can play at once (limited to about 12 or altogether), and equally importantly) it  can
play notes over the whole range of the piano simultaneously, allowing a much richer set of sounds

(ii) The machine can also adjust the precise strength with which it hits notes individually

As a result, it can make sounds that a human pianist really cannot make.

I may direct your attention to a musical study for a talking piano, Peter has realized at the IEM - "Voices and Piano" ! Peter has spectrally analyzed short speeches from Guillaume Apollinaire to Orson Wells as basis of short pieces for piano solo and playback. Nicolas Hodges performed the premiere in Graz. We did some recordings of the premiere but I'm not sure if they are released yet? Further information can be found at: http://ablinger.mur.at/voices_and_piano.html

Even a human pianist cannot compete with an automatic piano in terms of speed and range of notes I was deeply impressed by the acoustic outcome of Nicholas' play.

"The Audience", the 7th act of his opera is a composition for two ensembles and two computer-controlled pianos and was premiered at the Steirischer Herbst festival in 2005. He refers to the term "Klangrede" for reproducing city noises, speech, and instrumental sounds. Further informations and sound examples can be found at: http://ablinger.mur.at/docu15engl_act7.html

With best wishes,


On 10 oct. 09, at 13:37, Aki Pasoulas wrote:

From: Peter Meijer <feedback@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Saturday, 10 October, 2009 9:11:19
Subject: Re: [AUDITORY] Talking piano

And pianists: don't despair, I can imagine that a further simplification to
10-finger piano speech might also work well enough, by analogy to the 3-tone
sinewave speech results... :-)


Or use 2 pianos and 8 hands; many symphonic works of the 19th C. were transcribed for 8 hands.



Dr. Bob Carlyon
MRC Cognition & Brain Sciences Unit
15 Chaucer Rd
Cambridge CB2 7EF

Tel: +44 1223 355294
Fax: +44 1223 359062