Thursday, August 23, 2007

Johnson plays the piano

When I was about two years of age, my parents brought me to my Grandmother’s house in Marathon, New York. In her parlor was a magnificent machine with rows of black and white levers that, when hit, would emit wonderful sounds. I stood on the piano bench and hit its many keys, sometimes with my fingers, but mostly with my fists. This attracted a great deal of attention and, from that time on, I have always been fascinated by pianos. I took some lessons, which I cover in my book, Abominable Firebug, but there was always something in the way preventing me from becoming a recognized pianist –mostly patience and skill.

One of the first things I purchased when I moved to my first apartment was a piano. I bought a used one even before I bought a television. However, pianos need to be kept in tune. Even though I had learned to tune pianos as a youngster living in Boston, it seemed that I spent more time tuning the thing than playing it.

Thirty years later, enter the modern electronic piano that never needs tuning. Each key is designed to feel like a grand piano, and the music is generated as a digital recording of a real piano, complete with its special intonation. The velocity, at which a note is sounded, as well as the operation of the pedals, is recorded as a sequence of MIDI data which, once recorded, can be played back either on the same piano or even on a completely different device. The result of all this being that I can bang out a piece on the piano, edit the mistakes at my leisure using software on my computer, then have my computer play the perfected piece back. Here is a link to some of my music: