Is a piano inevitable?

by slimboyfat 22 Replies latest social current

  • slimboyfat

    I was at a concert last night and the presence and stature of the piano struck me. And I thought: If the piano wasn't invented when it was, would it have been invented by someone else instead? Or if there was a world the same as our, except with a different history, would it have pianos now too or would it be modern world, similar in many respects, only without pianos?

    I often think about the role of contingency and necessity in human history.

    Electric light, for example, I think would have been invented sooner or later regardless of the rest of the details of human history.

    Ullysses by James Joyce on the other hand... If Joyce hadn't been born and lived the life he did this book would never have existed.

    But where does the piano stand? Was it destined to be invented or is it a fluke that wouldn't exist but for the chance turn of events of our history?

  • blondie

    Just on the fly, many instruments came into being to meet the needs of the composers of that time. There were harpsichords but the composers of the time needed instruments that met the sounds necessary.

  • the girl next door
    the girl next door
    I watch the Da Vinci series. Loosely based on history. Yet I am impressed with the portrayal of Leo's designer mind. Some are just gifted in what seems a miraculous way. Thats what it was with the piano. Something easier, broader, that just made sense. Of course someone else would have come along to dream it up. Look at the iphone.
  • Mephis
    Ullysses by James Joyce on the other hand... If Joyce hadn't been born and lived the life he did this book would never have existed.
    I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Beckett's Molloy trilogy (and a few other things). No Joyce means no Beckett, or at least not as he became.That curious butterfly effect of alternate histories. But it's arguable that there would have been equivalent movements with other expressions or even the same forms even if not in the same words. You have to tear out the influences by the roots to stop that. The beginning is Homer I suppose.
  • Coded Logic
    Coded Logic

    It's an interesting question. But there's really only a couple of types of instruments:





    However, the harpsichord and the piano are unique in that they're a stringed instrument that is not plucked or bowed. Instead, they're struck with a hammer. I feel the only "new" instrument over the past few hundred years has been the computer. You can take a sound sampling from anything - or create one entirely - and make whatever musical note you want with it.

    I agree that the piano was inevitable. Though I can't help but wonder what musical devices have yet to be discovered.

  • dropoffyourkeylee
    Actually the harpsichord has plucked strings too, but the point is well taken. The clavichord had struck strings. It's curious that the keyboard instrument was a product of Europe, not of the other civilization centers.
  • compound complex
    compound complex

    Your observation is meaningful to me, SBF, because of my 50 years teaching piano. Although I trained since early childhood for the stage, it is teaching that I have always preferred.

    An occasional gig keeps me hammering at the strings and in costume . . .



    Edited to add: If you haven't already done so, Google Bartolomeo Cristofori to learn what happened to his initial enterprise of piano building. He was, originally, a maker of harpsichords. It bears, among other things, upon Blondie's comment on meeting sound requirements of the day.

  • Magnum
    In order to really answer that, I'd need to know more about the science and theory (and underlying math) of music. In my current ignorant state, I don't think the tuning of the piano and the key arrangement are arbitrary; I think they are sort of dicated by science and musical theory. Therefore, I think the invention of the piano was inevitable.
  • LisaRose

    I was watching a movie the other night that had a plot line about the glass harp, a kind of musical instrument I had never heard of. It has bands of glass of different sizes or sometimes just wine glass of various sizes, which are played with a moistened finger. The sound is quite pretty, very ethereal.

    I think the piano would have been invented no matter what, it's just such a versatile instrument. On the other hand we may or may not have had a glass harp, although the sound is beautiful, it has limited applications.

    But then again maybe everything is inevitable, given enough time. There may be instruments yet to be invented, just waiting for the right person to come along to think of it.

  • breakfast of champions
    breakfast of champions

    The piano is a passing fad.

    It'll never last.

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