Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Who invented the piano? When was it invented? Why was it invented?

The invention of the piano is credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori but there are others who contributed to what it has become. In this article, we will give credit where credit is due. We shall talk about the inventor of the piano, why it was invented, as well as those who invented variations of the piano and piano parts and features that make the instrument what it is today.

The inventor of the piano, Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) hailed from Padua, Italy. He was employed by Ferdinando de’ Medici, Grand Prince of Tuscany, as the Keeper of the Instruments. Cristofori was an expert harpsichord maker and was very familiar with the previous body of knowledge on creating stringed keyboard instruments.
When was the piano invented? 

No one really knows. According to his employers, the Medici family, one of his pianos was already in existence by the year 1700. Another document of doubtful authenticity indicates that the piano was invented in the year 1698. Three pianos made by Bartolomeo Cristofori survive today. They all date from the 1720s.

It was Sebastian LeBlanc, a family friend who suggested that the black and white keys be switched on the piano. On Cristofori’s earliest pianos, the accidental keys were white and the natural keys were black, the exact opposite of what exists today.

The piano is founded on earlier technological inventions. 

Why was the piano invented? The piano was perhaps a result of trying to improve on the clavier and harpsichord. The harpsichord was loud but it had no control of dynamics. There was little expressive control of each note and it was almost impossible to add emotion to the music. The clavier had a certain degree of dynamics but it was too quiet. The new invention, the piano was able to combine the loudness of the harpsichord with the dynamics of the clavichord.

If we were to give a short, clear answer as to who invented the piano, it would be Bartolomeo Cristofori, without a doubt. What was his major success as inventor of the piano? What he did successfully solved the main problem with piano design at the time. He really had no example to follow and was able to solve the problem of the hammer striking the string but not remaining in contact with it and dampening the sound. That was a major problem with the previous keyboard, the clavichord. On a clavichord, the tangent remains in contact with the clavichord string. In addition, the hammer must return to its rest position without a violent bounce and must be able to repeat a note rapidly. The inventor of the piano, Cristofori was able to pave the way for other piano builders with his new invention. His piano action served as a model for the many different approaches to piano actions that came after.

Although Cristofori’s early instruments were made with thin strings and were not as loud as modern pianos, the pianoforte (as it was called later) was considerably louder and had more sustaining power than the clavichord. It was now possible to evoke emotion into the music. Musicians were now able to control the volume of their instrument and composers could write with that important feature in mind.

While Bartolomeo Cristofori is credited as the one who invented the piano, mention must be made of Gottfried Silbermann, better known as an organ builder. Silbermann’s pianos were exact copies of Cristofori’s except for one important addition. Silbermann invented the forerunner of the modern damper pedal. This damper pedal lifts all the dampers from the strings at once.

Gottfried Silbermann  

One can’t speak about the man who invented the piano without giving credit to Sébastien Érard.

Thanks to Sébastien Érard, in 1821, it was then possible to repeat a note even if the key had not yet risen to its maximum vertical position. Érard invented the double escapement action, which incorporated a repetition lever (also called the balancier). It was now possible to play repeated notes rapidly. Liszt pioneered this musical device. This invention became the standard in grand pianos and the same exists today.

Another innovator in piano history was Henri Pape.

He was the first one to introduce felt, and that was in the year 1826. Felt hammer coverings replaced layered leather. Felt was a more consistent material and permitted wider dynamic ranges as hammer weights and string tension increased.

Who invented the piano sostenuto pedal?

It was none other than Jean Louis Boisselot in the year 1844. The pedal was improved by Steinway in 1874 and allowed more effects.

Overstringing was invented by Jean-Henri Pape during the 1820s. 

Over-stringing placed the bass bridge behind and to the treble side of the tenor bridge area. This was an improvement of earlier instruments whose bass strings were a mere continuation of a single string plane. Overstringing also called cross stringing crossed the strings, with the bass strings in the higher plane. It was now possible to have a much narrower cabinet at the “nose” end of the piano. Thanks to over-stringing, the transition from unwound tenor strings to the iron or copper-wrapped bass strings were optimized.

The firm of Broadwood played a major role in the early technological progress of the piano. 

John Broadwood along with Scot, Robert Stodart, and a Dutchman, Americus Backers designed a piano in the harpsichord case. This is where the “grand” originated. This was achieved in the year, 1777. Broadwood built progressively larger, more powerful and more robustly constructed pianos.
Who is the inventor of the transposing piano?
It was Edward Ryley in the year 1801. This piano had a lever under the keyboard. The lever was used to move the keyboard relative to the key. The piano player was permitted to play in a familiar key while the music sounds in a different key.

Who invented the player piano? 

It was Henri Fourneaux in the year 1863. The player piano plays itself from a piano roll without the need for a pianist.

How about the upright piano? Who invented the upright piano?

Some music historians believe the upright piano was developed in the year 1739 by P. Domenico Del Mela, one of Cristofori’s assistants. These were the earliest upright pianos. The upright piano that would be recognizable today was invented not until the 1780s by Johann Schmidt, in Austria.

Thomas Loud in London subsequently adapted the design of the upright piano by placing the strings of the instrument diagonally.

While Bartolomeo Cristofori is the one who invented the piano, mention must be made of inventors like Gottfried Silbermann, Sébastien Érard, Henri Pape, Henri Fourneaux, Jean Louis Boisselot, P. Domenico Del Mela, Johann Schmidt, Thomas Loud and Edward Ryley who all played important roles in Piano History.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

How the brain reads music: the evidence for musical dyslexia

Music education in the western world often emphasizes musical literacy, the ability to read musical notation fluently. But this is not always an easy task – even for professional musicians. Which raises the question: Is there such a thing as musical dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disability that occurs when the brain is unable to process written words, even when the person has had proper training in reading. Researchers debate the underlying causes and treatments, but the predominant theory is that people with dyslexia have a problem with  phonological processing – the ability to see a symbol (a letter or a phoneme) and relate it to speech sounds. Dyslexia is difficult to diagnose, but it is thought to occur in up to 10% of the population.

In 2000, Neil Gordon, a retired pediatric neurologist, proposed the idea of musical dyslexia (dysmusia), based on growing evidence that the areas of the brain involved in reading music and text differed.

The idea that dyslexia could affect the reading of non-language symbols is not new. For instance, dyscalculia is the difficulty reading and understanding mathematical symbols. Recent research supports dyslexia and dyscalculia as separate conditions with unique causes (dyscalculia is thought to be caused by a deficit in spatial processing in the parietal lobe). If the brain processes words and mathematical symbols differently, why not musical symbols too?
Music’s written system
Western music, like language, has a highly evolved coding system. This allows it to be written down and transmitted from composer to performer. But music, unlike language, uses a spatial arrangement for pitch. The page is divided into staffs of five lines each. Basically, the higher a symbol is placed on the staff, the higher the pitch.

Unlike letters in text, pitches can be stacked, indicating simultaneous performance (chords). Music also uses a system of symbols to indicate how pitches should be played. Symbols can indicate duration (rhythm), volume (dynamics) and other performance cues. Music also utilizes written words to indicate both the expressive features of the music and the lyrics in vocal music. Lyrics may be in languages not spoken by the performer.

Due to differences in the physical features of the written systems, it makes sense that the brain would read music and text differently. This appears to be the case – at least to some extent.
Text and music reading in the brain
In the brain, reading music is a widespread, multi-modal activity, meaning that many different areas of the brain are involved at the same time. It includes motor, visual, auditory, audiovisual, somatosensory, parietal and frontal areas in both hemispheres and the cerebellum – making music reading truly a whole brain activity. With training, the neural network strengthens. Even reading a single pitch activates this widespread network in musicians. While text and music reading share some networks, they are largely independent. The pattern of activation for reading musical symbols and letters is different across the brain.

Composer Maurice Ravel.  Bibliothèque nationale de France via Wikimedia Commons 
Brain damage, especially if it is widespread, as was the case with the composer Maurice Ravel, (perhaps best known for Boléro), will likely impair both text and music reading abilities. Ravel had a form of frontotemporal lobe dementia. 

However, there have been cases where a more limited brain injury impaired reading of one coding system and spared the other.

Ian McDonald, a neurologist and amateur pianist, documented the loss and recovery of his own ability to read music after a stroke, though his ability to read text was unaffected. Oliver Sacks described the case of a professional pianist who, through a degenerative brain disease (Posterior Cortical Atrophy), first lost her ability to read music while retaining her text reading for many years. In another case, showing the opposite pattern, a musician lost his ability to read text, but retained his ability to read music.

Cases where music and language seem to be differently affected by brain damage have fascinated researchers for centuries. The earliest reported case of someone who was unable to speak, but retained his ability to sing, was in the 1745 article, On a Mute who Can Sing.

More recently, the Russian composer, Vissarion Shebalin, lost his language abilities after a severe stroke, but retained his ability to compose. Maintaining the ability to sing in the absence of language has led to the creation of a therapeutic treatment called Melodic Intonation Therapy that essentially replaces speech with song. This allows the patient to communicate verbally. These cases and many others demonstrate that music and language are to some extent separate neurological processes.

Differences in reading ability can occur even within musical notation. Cases have been reported where musicians have lost their ability to read pitch, but retained their ability to read rhythm, and vice versa. fMRI studies have confirmed that the brain processes pitch (spatial information) and rhythm (symbol recognition) differently.

Musical dyslexia
The research starts to imply how a specifically musical dyslexia could occur. This deficit may be centered on pitch or musical symbols or both. No conclusive case of musical dyslexia has yet been reported (though Hébert and colleagues have come close) and efforts to determine the effects of dyslexia on reading musical notation have been inconclusive.

Children in western cultures are taught to read text, but not always taught to read music. Even when they are, inabilities to read music are not generally treated as a serious concern. Many gifted musicians are able to function at a professional level purely learning music by ear. Among musicians, there is a wide range of music reading proficiencies. This is especially apparent with sight reading (the first performance of a notated piece). Identifying musical dyslexia could help explain why some musicians read well and others don’t.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Snowboard champion Shaun White launches music career

Shaun White wins Gold Medals, he also plays the guitar, He's an amazing Performer no matter what he does. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Anthony Burger - Exodus

Amazing combination!!!!
Who but God could arrang this musical piece?

Lana Del Rey Made a Phoenix Arena Feel Like a Nightclub

Lana Del Rey - Ride - Live in Phoenix

My granddaughter was at this concert; This is what happened to her after the show as Lana del reys walked through the audeance.

SHE ALSO TOUCHED MY HAND AND I'M SO BLESSED!!!!She means so much to me I'm truly touched. #lanadelrey #LAtothemoon


I listened to this song and I was very pleased to Lana del Rey's style of music, this is good music for my granddaughter listen too.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Soundtrack from the Movie The Piano

The Piano (1993

The heart asks pleasure first" by Michael Nyman

This is my favorite on the soundtrack.

Who invented the piano? When was it invented? Why was it invented?

The invention of the piano is credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori but there are others who contributed to what it has become. In this article,...