Steinway Model D. Photo courtesy Steinway & Sons.

These piano breakthroughs changed music forever

Yesterday was Piano Day – a day recently christened by composer/pianist Nils Frahm in order to celebrate that ubiquitous keyboard instrument. (It’s held on the eighty-eighth day of the year.) There are concerts, marathons, project, releases – and unlike Record Store Day, this event won’t clog the ability to produce piano music. With that day as inspiration, I thought it was a good moment to look at some of the technology of and around the piano, to understand what has made this instrument special. That includes both strictly acoustic innovations as well as design features and breakthroughs that either inspired …

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Perfect, Beautiful Music for Free From Erased Tapes [2014 in Review]

Erased Tapes was an endlessly inspiring label in 2014. With a singular, understated focus on quality and music orbiting the keyboard, the acoustic, and minimal post-classical introspection, they were a calming counterpart to the year’s steroid-pumped festival commercialism. And first and foremost, they were about records — not fancy design accessories, not “throw everything at a wall and see what sticks” experiments in distribution. (There’s a place for that, yes, but a record label about records was nonetheless refreshing.) And Nils Frahm was a consistent star amidst all of this, a favorite live performer cutting across genres, wrangling keys electronic …

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Acoustic Revelation: Inside the Una Corda, the 100kg, 21st Century Piano Built for Nils Frahm

Now this is a revolutionary etude. There’s no question the acoustic grand is an engineering wonder, a musical instrument with literal tons of string tension producing unparalleled sound. But it’s a 19th Century technological marvel. Innovations, apart from subtle variations, have been largely frozen since the likes of the Steinway & Sons Model D-274. The Model D is a beauty; the question is, what have builders been doing with the 155 years since it was introduced? Builder David Klavins is a master instrument maker re-imagining the piano for our century. And he isn’t afraid to go to extremes to do …

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Listen: Greg Gives Peter Space, Intimate Vocals Meet Live, Spacey Sound [CDM Presents]

The label Erased Tapes lies perfectly at the crossroads of craft today, from instrument building and modification (electronic and acoustic) to performance and composition (again, electronic and acoustic). And a new collaboration weaves together all those threads. We couldn’t be more pleased to get to share the first exclusive track from that project, as well as announce an event we’ll co-present here in Berlin in June. Peter Broderick and Greg Haines are each multi-instrumentalist composers, at home singing and playing instruments both new and old. Their relationship spans several years, but this year brings the debut of a finished record …

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Pinball Pianola: Pinball Game Meets a Piano in a Wild Constructed Instrument

Pinball Pianola from Lucas Abela on Vimeo. The mechanical and kinetic collide – literally – with the sonic, in a devilishly-inventive hybrid instrument that cross-breeds a pinball table with a piano. Australian artist Lucas Abela is joining us next month as part of CTM Festival: The Golden Age. In the meantime, he shares this work. I’ve devised a Frankenstein experiment, combining the greatest musical invention of all time, the Piano; with the coolest amusement machines ever conceived; Pinball, to create an interactive sound installation like no other; ‘Pinball Pianola’, a musical device constructed by replacing the keyboard, hammers and front …

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