To enhance the musical capabilities of the piano by expanding the number of pitches available and freeing it from the constraints of tempered tuning.
- Due to mechanical limitations, a standard piano must use a tempered scale with only 12 notes per musical octave. Most other instruments, as well as the human voice, regularly employ a much larger number of pitches per octave and a wider range of tunings. * Pianos & Pitch Primer *
- Increasing the number of keys on the piano keyboard has been tried in the past. These attempts have been unsuccessful because they make the instrument more difficult to play and require building a new, custom-designed piano.
* Keyboard layout *
- In previous times, keyboard instruments were often retuned to suit the harmonic needs of a particular composition. Changing the tuning of the available 12 keys (per octave) is time-consuming, however, and can not be done in real-time during performance.
- The Groven Piano is digital network of acoustic pianos whereby a master input piano controls the actions of three separate output pianos via a computer interface. Similar to a pipe organ, the network functions as a single instrument with the combined resources of all the pianos available to the pianist from a single keyboard. The output pianos used for the first Groven Piano were Yamaha Disklaviers provided by Yamaha Scandinavia AS. Disklaviers are acoustic pianos outfitted with an electronic mechanism capable of receiving a MIDI computer signal and triggering the hammers to strike automatically. * Detailed description of network*
- The three output pianos (designated Blue, Gold, and Red) are tuned differently from one another to produce three variants of each pitch (e.g., C#-, C#, and C#+) about 1/8th of a step apart. This triples the available pitches per octave to allow for more precise tuning, while the use of a single control piano (with a silencing device) would maintain the same number of keys for the performer. * How it is tuned *
- The computer interface automatically regulates which output piano is being used, thus no additional burden is placed on the pianist during performance. For example, when a pianist plays a C minor chord on the input piano, the computer program would determine which of the three variants of the pitches C, Eb, and G are needed to produce a correctly tuned chord. The computer program would then route the input information for notes C and G to output-piano 1 (Blue) and the Eb to output-piano 2 (Gold). All three of these pitches still sound simultaneously as if played on a single piano, with the same durations, dynamics, and articulations executed by the pianist on the input piano. * How it works *
Historical: The Groven Piano, named for Norwegian composer Eivind Groven, is the realization of a project begun by him in the 1920s. The Groven Piano is modeled after a 36-tone organ designed and built by the composer which is still in use in Oslo, Norway. The first performance of the Groven Piano took place in Oslo, Norway on 19.April.2001 as part of activities commemorating Eivind Groven's centennial year. I was in Norway at that time as a Fulbright Scholar to further my research on the Groven's work and the Groven Piano Project. * Fulbright *
- Artistic: The Groven Piano expands the pitch palette of the piano, allowing for more subtle nuances of pitch akin to that experienced by a string quartet or an a cappella vocal ensemble. The intended repertoire for the instrument encompasses the full range of keyboard literature: from well-known masterworks to new compositions specifically written for the instrument's unique abilities. The Groven Piano is expected to be used for performances and recordings which will provide new realizations of major works from the classical piano repertoire (e.g., Bach, Mozart, Beethoven). The use of acoustic pianos (rather than synthesizers) also makes the Groven Piano well-suited for ensemble playing with other instruments.
- Scholarly: The Groven Piano is capable of reviving historical keyboard tunings and temperaments that pre-date the currently used standard (12-tone equal temperament), re-creating tuning systems used in other musical cultures (e.g., world music), and experimenting with new tuning systems. Demonstrations and recordings which compare various tuning systems side-by-side are expected to have great value for music educators.
- Technological: The Groven Piano represents the continuation of hundreds of years of ongoing development and evolution of piano technology. From a technological perspective alone, the project is a noteworthy achievement for its integration of computers with acoustic instruments during live-performance. As one of the first uses of a digital network with acoustic instruments, the project has applications which extend well beyond issues of piano temperament, such as the forthcoming inter/Play project. * Media interest *
- Community: The establishment of the Groven Piano in Kalamazoo, Michigan complements the strong reputation the city has established in the piano world as a result of both WMU's award-winning piano faculty and the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival. The Groven Piano was featured at the 2002 Gilmore Festival and will be made available on an ongoing basis to the international piano community as visiting artists are brought to Kalamazoo.