Though I’ve been debating with this for a while, the issue came to a head when writing my current piece, (insert as yet undecided title here). wanting to create a duller, more muffled sound I set about trying to see what I could do to the piano to change its sound and tone – somewhat encouraged by a recent talk from our Head of Piano, Professor Aaron Shorr, about George Crumb’s Makrokosmos, which widely explores the piano’s range and ability.
After messing around for a while, I came up with the idea of putting a piano between the hammers and the strings to act as a sort of dampener in a similar way to a practice rail on some upright pianos. However, as the towel is placed so the hammers hit into the towel to follow through onto the string the sound is muffled but not muted – a quite drastically different tone. The only problem being that this was on an upright and the hammers on a grand are below the strings therefore reproducing the technique would prove difficult.
In my next lesson I discussed my idea and findings with my teacher who, though unfortunately I couldn’t show what the sound was like, thought that a similar sound would be able to be made by a professional pianist on a good grand piano and placing towels and stuff into the mix may become a faff and not show much difference.
Whilst I have put this on hold to continue writing the piece this has left me questioning the importance, need and ability to experiment in comparison to the late 20th century and further, the thin line between genius, interesting or different and gimmicky, unnecessary or pretentious. To this I don’t think there’s a simple answer, and even so one person’s novelty is another’s ingenuity.