Print Story The broken key story
By ana (Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 05:33:24 AM EST) (all tags)
Been meaning to tell this for a while now.

So a few years back I started my collection of electronic musical instruments. And some real ones, it turns out.

The first keyboard my true love gave to me was a huge Cassio thing that does everything, has hundreds of voices, etc. etc. It's pretty wonderful. So we set it up, and I started trying to blow the mothballs off my keyboard skills, which were rusty already at their high water mark, when I got bounced out of piano lessons because as a 10 year old I couldn't be arsed to practice.

Sometime after it arrived, it developed an intermittent problem in the keyboard matrix. I'm imagining a bunch of switches that generate a binary address when a key is depressed. One of those connections went intermittent on me; I think perhaps a cold or cracked solder joint. When it's hot (like 85 F or above) it works most of the time. When it's not, every 8th key is silent. This includes the lowest F on the keyboard. So I would often walk by, try the low F, and if it spoke, would sit down and make some (bad) music.

Fast forward a few years. We're in NC, and toxicfur's grandfather's house is being cleaned out, and stuff given to family members who'll give it a good home. We rent a truck to bring home the piano, the ancestral dining room table, a roll-top desk, and a few smaller things. The unpacking of the above was interesting, but that's another story.

We walk into the music room, and I walk across the room, open the keyboard cover on the piano (a small, smaller than upright model), and poke one key. The lowest F on the keyboard. Which didn't do anything. Broken. Kaput. It turns out that it's the only broken key on the piano, and while the rest certainly need tuning, it's a nice instrument.

We keep talking about getting it tuned & repaired. Perhaps this spring we'll actually do it.
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The broken key story | 15 comments (15 topical, 0 hidden)
escritoire by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #1 Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 07:10:21 AM EST
(I just wanted an excuse to say that.)

There is totally the seed here for a story about the ghost of the low F key.

Alternatively, the origin of a composition that either avoids, or substitutes silence for, one key out of every eight (Oulipo-style, only with music).

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM

It will probably be as popular by bobdole (4.00 / 1) #3 Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 09:51:12 AM EST
as twelve-note composition. Not something for the faint at heart :-)

-- The revolution will not be televised.
[ Parent ]
The only by Herring (2.00 / 0) #6 Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 12:22:53 PM EST
bit of 12 tone music I know well is the Berg violin concerto. And that cops out towards the end. Actually it cops out at the beginning really with the overlapping minor & major triads.

I think though what Schoenberg was trying to do - add constraints - was a valid thing. Just to say "there is no tonality" doesn't say what there is to replace it. The 12 tone system at least impose some structure at least on the thematic material.

Maybe that says something profound about creativity and the human psyche (like why I have a shedload of software, hardware and instruments and can't finish an MFC) or maybe I'm just talking out my arse. Maybe not though - look at the creativity of programmers working with, say, 6502 machine code and then the creativity of programmers working with .NET 3.5. If I were doing a masters degree in some bollocks humanities subject then there's plenty of material for a thesis there. (Probably been done a million times over though)

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
Partly agree by bobdole (2.00 / 0) #14 Sun Jan 11, 2009 at 09:21:23 AM EST
Creativity is one of those things where either you have it or you don't. You can have all the tools and the training, but if you haven't got any creativity you won't even get going. All the tools in the world won't help you.

I have issues with 12 tone music. I can sort of agree that at the time there must have been a certain feeling that tonality had been taken as far as possible and to be "creative" and new they had to venture outside the boundaries of traditional western music. However, I take objections to strict 12 tone music where there seems to be structure imposed for structure's sake rather than giving a esthetic quality (which is what music is all about, for me).
This isn't really limited to 12 tone music. The baroque era has some of the same issues, with strict fugues and so on. I guess all periods had some "rules", 12 tone music just seems much more restrictive*.

*Which might have something to do with the fact that "I don't get it". 

-- The revolution will not be televised.
[ Parent ]
The escritoire... by ana (4.00 / 1) #4 Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 10:28:02 AM EST
came back in the next load, in an otherwise nearly empty truck. Turns out to be dirt cheap to rent a truck one-way, but you-gotta-be-kidding to get a car.

I did spend some time wondering if there's a key that avoids every 8th note in a chromatic scale, and there isn't. I eventually purchased a midi keyboard that now sits atop the big synth, or can be hooked up to my laptop's USB port, but doesn't make sound by itself.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
Perfect by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #8 Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 03:53:38 PM EST
... for the John Cage tribute MFC ...

The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

[ Parent ]
I'd totally try that by dark nowhere (2.00 / 0) #9 Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 07:04:21 PM EST
in F-minor (with F missing.) It might backfire, but I bet it could be exploited.

See you, space cowboy.

[ Parent ]
I think by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #10 Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 07:35:24 PM EST
you're forgetting the black keys. Every 8th key is not an F.

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
Yeah by dark nowhere (2.00 / 0) #11 Sun Jan 11, 2009 at 02:58:48 AM EST
I kind of assumed only white keys were being counted... I mean if I were building an electronic keyboard I'd sooner design it with keys whole number frequency multiples coincided than whatever every eighth key works out to be.

Either way, the point is that the root note goes missing from the central chord. I usually don't make nearly so much use of that chord at higher or lower octaves so it would work out more or less the same.

See you, space cowboy.

[ Parent ]
get a good, solid tuner with some history... by clock (2.00 / 0) #2 Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 09:10:22 AM EST
...a really good piano tuner will give you lots of great service and a full work up on the instrument.  maybe it's not a "performance grade" instrument, but it's good to remember that we don't own instruments like that...we take care of them.  and the family ones are the most important.

enjoy it...and yeah, you seem to have a knack there.

I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

Good tuners. by toxicfur (4.00 / 2) #5 Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 10:45:51 AM EST
Yeah, that's why I'm talking to friends to get a good recommendation. We're fortunate that -- thanks in part to ana's singing hobby -- we know quite a few musicians. The piano is an Acrosonic, by Baldwin, I believe, and my grandparents bought it when my mom was a kid for piano-lesson practicing. My grandmother played it regularly (and maintained it) until she died in 1993.

I played it some when I was a kid, and I loved how it sounded -- much warmer than the piano in my own house (a much older piano that belonged to my grandfather's mother), and with a much nicer feel somehow. Once we get this one tuned, I'm considering piano lessons for myself, just to see if I can remember all that stuff I learned when I was a kid.

To Rollins lesbians are like cuddly pandas: cute, exotic, forest-dwelling, dangerous when riled and unable to produce offspring without assistance.-CRwM
[ Parent ]
Call by ad hoc (4.00 / 1) #7 Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 01:13:46 PM EST
North Bennett Street School

I had a friend who graduated from there but he's since moved to NM.

[ Parent ]
Our mutual friends in Melrose by iGrrrl (2.00 / 0) #12 Sun Jan 11, 2009 at 05:43:16 AM EST
 I think they can make a recommendation.

Plus, we had a conversation last night that required a linguist!

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
Sorry you were missing your token linguist ;) by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #13 Sun Jan 11, 2009 at 08:34:30 AM EST
ana sent our mutual friends an email asking for a recommendation. I know they've told us about a couple of people before, but we can't find where we wrote that down (if we did write it down).

I'm sorry we missed the get-together yesterday -- it's always good to get together with them, and with you of course.

To Rollins lesbians are like cuddly pandas: cute, exotic, forest-dwelling, dangerous when riled and unable to produce offspring without assistance.-CRwM
[ Parent ]
I have a piano ..... by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #15 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 02:12:09 AM EST
... that was bombarded by Allied Forces in WWII.

It belonged to a German Opera singer at the start of the XXth century.

When I first got it I had to open it myself, give it a thorough cleaning and do some basic tuning myself (one needs only pliers and something capable of playing a 440 HZ sound, like a computer with BASIC :-) ).

I have nothing against electronic keyboards, but they lack that nice organic feeling of a real piano, each of which has its own personality.

The broken key story | 15 comments (15 topical, 0 hidden)