Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Unprepared Piano

The first time I heard the sound of the piano 1 minute and 30 seconds into this Richter recording of the Saint-Saens Egyptian Concerto, I was sure that there was some kind of "preparation" done to the piano. I later learned that the magic is in the natural overtones that get excited (or dulled) when you use this particular combination of strings and hammers.



Click on the picture below for a better view, and try it yourself!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Harmonics, just as Ravel used in part of Bolero and other works. Organists have known of this forever, and Saint-Saens knew the organ well.

Elaine Fine said...

Ravel used organum (fourths) in Bolero, but he used sustaining wind instruments. The difference tones that come from the organ do not change the fundamental timbre of the regular pitches that are being played. There is something really special here, because the resulting difference tones change the actual sound of the instrument.

Anonymous said...

The melody begins on the third of F major, but the right hand notes are essentially 2&2/3 (nazard) and 1&3/5 (tierce) foot stops over the 8 foot of the left hand beginning on A. Parallel major chords then, functioning in this way because Saint-Saens was also an organist who would have known and often used this as a normal "cornet" registration.

Elaine Fine said...

Isn't it amazing the way a normal registration on the organ, which is a sustaining instrument, can produce such an odd "thumb piano"-like quality on the piano when combined with sustaining upper strings and pizzicato in the bass?

Anonymous said...

Though not fully explored because the 20th century penchant for odd experimentation sort of abandoned harmonics, I suspect there are a lot more interesting effects which might be uncovered when this alley (likely not blind) is further examined, as it surely will be.