Does anyone know any of the technical side of this. I recall having a
discussion once with John Eargle. He thought it would be possible to take
the fundamentals of each key stroke on a piano recording, measure the
relative amplitudes, adjusting for their frequency and then using that
information to create a midi file...so you could have a pianist playing on
whatever keyboard which could be controlled with the file created.
Certainly the dynamic range of the recording would be a limiting factor.
Then would Ansorge (a Liszt pupil whose rolls we are working on...who also
made disc recordings) play it the same way if he was at a Steinway, versus
a Yamaha, versus...
As for Glenn Gould without the singing...would it be Glenn Gould without
On Wed, 8 Jun 2005, Dick Spottswood wrote:
> ----- Forwarded by Dick Spottswood/dick/AmericanU on 06/08/2005 04:21 PM
> [log in to unmask]
> 06/06/2005 06:13 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Fwd: Can new technology allow the late great
> masters to perform once more?
> ----- Message from [log in to unmask] on Mon, 6 Jun 2005 18:06:26 EDT
> [log in to unmask]
> Can new technology allow the late great masters to perform once more?
> Play It Again, Vladimir (via Computer)
> ANNE MIDGETTE - New York Times June 5, 2005
> The house lights dimmed at the BTI Center for the Performing Arts in
> Raleigh, N.C., one night last month, the stage lights came up on the grand
> piano, and in front of a rapt audience Alfred Cortot played Chopin's
> Prelude in G (Op. 28, No. 3), as he had not for nearly 80 years.
> Cortot is dead, of course. He was not present in physical form, nor was
> anyone else sitting at the keyboard of the Yamaha Disklavier Pro as the
> keys rose and fell. But this was his performance come back to life: his
> gentle touch, his luminosity, even his mistakes, like the light brush of
> an extra note at the periphery of the final chord.
> So, at least, claimed Dr. John Q. Walker, the president of Zenph Studios
> in Raleigh, which sponsored the event and created the software that
> allowed Cortot to return. Dr. Walker is developing technology that enables
> him to break down the sounds of an old recording, digitize them and
> reproduce them on a Disklavier, an up-to-the-minute player piano that can
> record and replay performances by means of a CD in a slot above the
> keyboard. Sophisticated fiber optics control the instrument's hammers.
> Old recordings of great performers are often marred by scratches and
> surface noise, or by sound badly filtered through primitive microphones.
> Dr. Walker is offering the same music with the immediacy of live
> performance and the acoustical advantages of a contemporary piano. To
> demonstrate the contrast, Dr. Walker also let the audience at the BTI
> Center hear the original Cortot recording from 1926, which sounds as if
> sand had been poured on the old disc's shellac.
> "The farther you get from the recordings, the worse they sound," Dr.
> Walker said by phone a few days before the concert. "The fundamental root
> of the problem is that I don't want to hear a recording. I want to hear
> the young Horowitz, Schnabel, Fats Waller, Thelonious Monk on an in-tune
> If the claims he is making for his new technology are accurate, he will
> soon be able to. His plan is to approach the major labels with his
> software and delve into their back catalogs, acting as a record producer
> to make old recordings new. Josef Hoffman without the scratches, Glenn
> Gould without the mumbling: brought back to life and performing on modern
> pianos, recorded with modern technology.
> "People say this is like colorizing old photographs, but it's not," Dr.
> Walker said. "This process is like being able to set up the entire scene
> of that photograph again and shoot it with a new camera from any angle,
> This is the new world of computer music. In its infancy, way back in the
> 1960's, the goal was to use digital technology to create new sounds and
> new musical forms. Today scientists around the world are turning computers
> on human performance, seeking to quantify an element once thought to be
> intangible: the expressivity of a human artist.
> The piano is a good place to start. It offers a relatively limited set of
> variables. With the violin, every aspect of sound production is subject to
> human vagaries: bow pressure, bow speed, the placement of the fingers. On
> the piano, it comes down to hammers hitting strings.
> Developed by Wayne Stahnke, the first Disklaviers were made in the 1980's
> by Bösendorfer, the renowned Viennese piano manufacturer. When that
> company stopped making them, Yamaha took up the baton, hiring Mr. Stahnke
> as a consultant. Mr. Stahnke's best-known Disklavier project was a
> foretaste of Dr. Walker's efforts: translations of piano rolls recorded by
> Sergei Rachmaninoff. The two resulting CD's of "new" Rachmaninoff
> performances, both called "A Window in Time" and released in 1998 and
> 1999, are still available from Telarc. Some listeners find these
> revelatory. Some find them mechanical, even soulless. The reactions
> demonstrate a basic difficulty with mechanical reproduction of music:
> there is a subjective element involved in determining if it works. The
> final criterion for any such reproduction is the rather imprecise "Turing
> test" of artificial intelligence: that is, whether it can make the
> listener think he or she is hearing a person rather than a machine.
> At the Austrian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a group of
> leading researchers known as the Machine Learning, Data Mining and
> Intelligent Music Processing Group are trying to pinpoint just what it is
> that fools the ear. Led by Gerhard Widmer, they are looking at everything
> from improving the way computers "hear" music to isolating the elements of
> individual performance style, as well as creating graphs and animations to
> illustrate different pianists' interpretations of the same passage of
> In a 2003 paper, "In Search of the Horowitz Factor," Dr. Widmer and his
> team described giving the computer 13 recordings of Mozart piano sonatas,
> played into a Bösendorfer Disklavier by the pianist Roland Batik, to see
> if they could use the computer to determine rules that described the
> pianist's interpretive choices.
> They did get some rules, though it turned out that many of them applied
> equally well to other performances of other music. But the machine
> generated its own performance of a Mozart sonata movement that it had not
> heard Mr. Batik play, but based on what it had learned of his style. With
> this, it took second prize in the International Computer Piano Performance
> Rendering Contest in Tokyo in 2002. With no stage fright.
> "The first question was, can we hear Glenn Gould play again?" Dr. Walker
> said. "The next question: Cool, can we hear him play other stuff?" To
> this, Dr. Widmer might answer: We're getting there.
> But there's still the thorny matter of how to get data from an audio
> recording into the computer. It's a question not just of having the
> computer play back a CD, but of translating the music into a language the
> computer can understand.
> A computer, by itself, can't recognize the difference between a note of
> music and a cough. It can't pick out a melody from a dense weave of
> counterpoint. It can't tap its foot to follow a beat - not, at least, in
> classical music, where the tempos are constantly changing. The first
> problem Dr. Walker faced was how to get the computer to create a kind of
> score from the clusters of sounds in a recording.
> "A recording is sound waves that were sampled by a microphone," he said.
> "We feed those into the computer and try to discover what the notes are.
> The computer model is a three-dimensional thing: middle C struck in a
> certain way looks like a 3-D mountain range. We have a model that looks
> like math equations, and we try to fit to it: Yeah, this looks like it's a
> Dr. Walker - a trained pianist with a degree in software engineering who
> sold his company a few years ago, creating the time and financial
> flexibility to work on this project - is coming up with his own answers.
> But the process is still extremely time-consuming. He is reluctant to say
> just how slow it is, but he has been working for more than three years,
> and his demo CD includes only a few tracks: the Cortot, Glenn Gould's
> performance of the Aria and first variation of Bach's "Goldberg"
> Variations, and part of a track by Art Tatum.
> Even after he gets a model that works, Dr. Walker has to contend with the
> question of reproduction on a Disklavier: can it mimic human performance
> down to the last detail? Dr. Werner Goebl, a member of Dr. Widmer's team
> in Vienna, addressed this as co-author of a paper called "Are
> Computer-Controlled Pianos a Reliable Tool in Music Performance Research?
> Recording and Reproduction Precision of a Yamaha Disklavier Grand Piano."
> Precisely measuring the Disklavier's ability to replicate human touch, Dr.
> Goebl answered his own question: No.
> Less high-tech but just as relevant are the variations from one piano to
> another. A skilled musician compensates for changes in a room or an
> instrument. A CD cannot. Dr. Walker encountered one aspect of the problem
> when he took his technology to the Yamaha studios to play his Cortot
> performance for Mei-Ting Sun, a young concert pianist and the winner of
> the first Piano-e-Competition in 2002 (judged, in part, via a Disklavier
> in Japan, which reproduced performances thousands of miles away for one of
> the judges).
> It had to do with the final chord in the Chopin prelude - or, rather, with
> the extra, wrong note.
> "Their piano wasn't calibrating as ours was," Dr. Walker said, "and the
> note didn't sound. Mei-Ting said: 'I know this recording. This wasn't
> accurate, because Cortot misses the last chord.' I played it again, and he
> watched the keyboard and saw that the key went down but didn't sound. He
> said, 'O.K., you guys got it.' "
> Mr. Sun was so convinced that at the North Carolina concert where Dr.
> Walker's version of Cortot made his debut, he appeared as the featured
> live artist: Cortot played a piece, Glenn Gould played a piece, and Mr.
> Sun played the rest of the evening. He had to; Dr. Walker didn't have
> enough music to fill a whole recital.
> The technology, in short, is still in its infancy. But Dr. Walker is
> animated by his vision of the future. Like other scientists - including
> Dr. Goebl in Vienna, another serious classical musician - he envisions a
> future of interactive recordings. "We've been trained that a recording is
> a frozen document," he said. "Why can't it be like a video game - every
> time you hear a recorded performance it's different?" But at the moment,
> his focus is on making new recordings in a more conventional manner.
> Dr. Goebl, in Vienna, supports Dr. Walker's work and is interested in it.
> But he questions whether it's a "real" performance. (Dr. Walker is well
> aware of such skepticism; his response is simply that you can't judge
> until you've heard it.) "The timing you can probably get quite right," Dr.
> Goebl said. "What is really difficult is to get how long the notes were
> held and how the pedal was moved and so on. You don't have that
> information. You can just guess. The result is something that sounds like
> but never truly will be Gould. It's always an approximation."
> So is he saying that Dr. Walker's track isn't authentic?
> "There you have to go into the philosophical domain," Dr. Goebl replied.
> "A recording is just an acoustic document of what took place."
> In other words, a recording isn't authentic, either. It is also at a
> remove, or two or three, from the original performer, and it is also
> affected by the decisions of the engineers who helped create it.
> The Gould recording, after all, wasn't recorded in one take. Many
> different takes were spliced together to create it. Is it any more real
> than a computer replica? Only if you say it is.
> Play It Again, Vladimir (via Computer) - New York Times