The talking piano
Peter Ablinger was born in Austria, in 1959. He’s a graphic artist and a student of jazz, and he is a fairly prolific composer. Peter has made it his mission to question the nature of sound, time, and space – the components usually thought central to music.
Now, Peter has done something quite amazing with a piano. He goes beyond notes, beyond noise, beyond composition – he can make the piano talk. Yes, talk.
What he’s managed to do is pretty incredible. Peter analyzed the frequency spectrum of a child’s voice using fourier analysis, and then transferred this frequency spectrum of the child’s voice into his own software on his computer.
He then created a mechanical “auto-player” for his piano that plays the piano keys via midi computer control. His software then assigns keys to the various frequency components of the resulting fourier transform, and uses the piano’s notes to re-assemble the spectrum.
The result is amazing – the piano actually ‘plays’ the voice, much like a vocoder. It obviously isn’t perfect, but if you follow the captions, it’s clear that the piano is ‘speaking’.
The voice is courtesy of Miro Markus, an elementary school student from Berlin, who narrated the text for the performance: “Youth as a hope for the older generation.”
I break down this phonography, meaning a recording of something the voice, in this case, in individual pixels, one can say. And if I have the possibility of a rendering in a fairly high resolution (and that I only get with a mechanical piano), then I in fact restore some kind of continuity. Therefore, with a little practice, or help or subtitling, we actually can hear a human voice in a piano sound.
Check it out: