T. Polymeneas Liontiris, A. Loveday Edwards

University College Falmouth (UNITED KINGDOM)
At University College Falmouth (UCF) we have been using Yamaha Disklavier pianos for the past two years. Traditionally the Disklavier is a motorised piano system that has Musical Instrument Digital Interfaced (MIDI) technological implementations incorporated in its features. It combines the advantages of digital pianos – saving and reproducing data, volume control, silent practice mode – with the more desirable aspects of acoustic pianos: sound quality and touch sensibility. Disklavier is a grand piano; but in addition the music played on it can be saved on a high-resolution MIDI file. This stored data can be relayed to servomotors on the back of its keys; meaning that on playback the exact recorded performance can be reproduced mechanically. Due to its very high resolution on touch velocity the performance playback becomes indistinguishable from a pianist’s playing.

Furthermore, the new generations of Disklaviers integrate an innovative Operating System (OS) and features that add new dimensions to music performances and pedagogy. They provide the possibilities of streaming music data globally. Such technologies allow the remote control of the instrument from anywhere in the world by the implementation of Internet’s User Datagram Protocol (UDP). This means, for example, that remote learning or e-learning can take place, with lecturers potentially teaching classes anywhere in the world from their own base. That makes it a valuable educational tool in terms of the quality of tuition that can be accessed. Digitised music data can be streamed and reproduced precisely in real time, preserving its exact sound qualities. Students can experience performances by grand masters that are not normally available within the region or the college environment. The Disklavier can also be seen as a music learning assessment tool, due to its ability to record the student’s performance on a computer screen as midi data - this data can be used for further evaluation or can be used as a tool of comparison between student’s and tutor’s performance.

This paper charts the progression at UCF both of the use of the Disklavier as a learning tool, as well as a tool for artistic expression. Currently, up to four Disklaviers can be connected simultaneously. At UCF this understanding has given rise to research projects that investigate the largely unexplored potential of remote performance. The research advances that the instrument will be played in one location – UCF – and, in real time, the data will be transmitted to three remote locations; additionally three other Disklaviers will replicate the same performance. This is different from many other uses of technology in performance, as this is not projection of previously recorded material but live communication between the interfaces. In other words, not post-processing but transmitting.

This paper analyses the potential of the instrument to become the platform for knowledge sharing and transfer between educational institutions, and explores the technological and theoretical aspects of this ongoing project, looking at the role of this technology in performance as well as in education, and in offering new possibilities and efficacies in Internet based music-making awards.