Monday, May 24, 2010

piano sound, part....5?

A little research has pretty much definitively answered the question from my last post: in terms of the vibration of the string, the only thing a pianist has any control over is the speed with which the hammer hits the string (and the pedal...). It turns out, this was a simple physical problem, solved by learning about piano action. The relevant fact is this: after you push down a piano key, but before the hammer actually hits the string, it loses all contact with the rest of the action, so that the only force on the hammer for some duration of time before it hits the string is gravity. Then the only forces on the hammer during contact are gravity and the force of the string itself; nothing with the piano action is involved anymore at all. Therefore, if the hammer strikes the same string twice with the same velocity, it will produce the same sound spectrum.

Okay, but there's still more to it, because there's also, surprisingly, a lot of white noise that goes into piano playing. This includes not only finger to key white noise, but more importantly, the noise all the stuff bouncing around inside the piano, which resonates on the soundboard just as the string vibrations do.

Without getting into that too much for now, let me re-state an important question: Who cares? Well, okay, here's something that will never apply to most people, but applies to me: should pianists play chamber music with the lid of the piano raised, or not?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

piano sound, ctd

Expanding on my earlier posts on this topic (as it keeps me up at night more and more often):

After doing some basic research, it seems that there is a fair amount of scholarly work on physical modeling of the piano, attempting to figure out exactly what physical parameters affect the production of sound. Most of this work has to do with the physics of damped string oscillations and the acoustics of the soundboard, etc. etc., i.e., what is common to all piano tones. This is all very interesting, but comes at the issue from an altogether different perspective from what is, practically speaking, most useful to pianists and musicians.

The big question for me remains: how much do variations in "touch," or the pianist's physical approach, affect variation in the sound spectra of individual notes? In particular, after glossing through some articles, one specific question seems particularly urgent and no one seems to be close to answering it: In affecting the timbre of a sustained note, can a pianist vary anything other than the velocity of the hammer just before it hits the string?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

rule changes for soccer, part 5 or so....diving and the advantage rule

Naturally, Barcelona's champion's league loss from last week has renewed my annoyance with soccer's faults. One of these faults that's been crying out for revision recently and that most people grossly misunderstand, is the problem of diving.

Diving is what we generally call a player's attempts to deceive the referee into calling a foul when none has been committed, either by falling down or gesticulating in more dramatic manner. Here's the first problem: players don't fall down just to deceive the referee into calling a foul; in fact, more often they fall down to indicate to the referee that a foul has occurred, merely to make it easier for him to call it.