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Saturday, February 12, 2011

piano rolls

I spent the morning listening to piano rolls.

What is a piano roll? They are compositions that are impossible for humans to play, but not impossible for a player piano or reproducing piano to play. Thus they are a feigned performance, somewhere between live and recorded - a spectre of the reality that could be, if only fourteen fingers and three hands. Some composers composed compositions (like that?) specifically for the piano roll. Piano rolls can also preserve the composer playing her own composition - Gershwin actually playing Gershwin. Here are some paradigmatic examples.

Antheil - "Ballet Mecanique" (1924) - perhaps the most famous example, Dada. I am not partial to this type of music, but I do enjoy Legar's accompanying film.

Ervin Nyiregyhazi playing Grainger's playing Tchaikovsky's "Waltz of the Flowers" (1922) - if asked to submit a universally appealing piece of music, I would submit this.   

D-albert playing Saint-Saens "Danse Macabe" - Beautiful piano roll of the piece usually performed with strings and voice.

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