Dan Smart at Tiny Mix Tapes writes about a new instrument developed by the folks at Sibelius Music Academy…with a lot of um, colorful language. Still, this new quarter-tone piano is rather fascinating…and how does one really play it, anyway? Is it a just a curiosity or a transformational new instrument?
I’m so over the piano, man. I mean, that bullshit sideways-harp-of-an-instrument has been in need of an overhaul for like, EVER, am I right?
Oh. Sorry. That actually wasn’t a rhetorical question, guys. I AM right. The Sibelius Music Academy at The University of the Arts Helsinki SAYS SO. See, they just announced that they successfully made a new piano. A better one. With more keys on it…
It’s called a quarter-tone piano. And according to the wizards of invention at this school, it’s “become more and more common in contemporary music.” Logically, it follows that anyone who doesn’t agree with that statement and long to start playing one RIGHT AWAY is a complete Philistine. You’re not one of those, are you? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Keep reading.
“About 10 years ago, in the Sibelius Academy student dorm Clavis, we started to play with the idea of realizing the 24-tonescale chromaticism on just one piano in a way that is ergonomic also for the player,” said Sibelius Academy pianist Elisa Järvi. She and composer Sampo Haapamäki then started to tinker around with that idea, “testing different versions first with paper and felt.” After a while, the Academy’s “development center” and “piano department” got their shit together and funded a prototype, one-octave model (created by piano technician Matti Kyllönen).
From there, it all just kinda unfolded like some unlistenable-but-still-cool, John Cage-scored fucking fairy tale, readers. The project was “further developed with the support from the Finnish Cultural Fund,” and by 2014, Toholammi and his carpenter-buddy Otso Haapamäki “built the first full-scale keyboard prototype.” And one year later, boom: they finished this new one (with additional software developed by technician Libero Mureddu) and installed the thing at the goddamn Sibelius Center, where it’s “now available for Sibelius Academy tuition across faculties and departments — pianists, composer and music technicians.” The end.