City Research Online

A Short History of Key Noise

Pace, I. ORCID: 0000-0002-0047-9379 (2019). A Short History of Key Noise. Keynote Paper presented at the Hands-On Research Conference, 1 Nov 2019, University of Aveiro, Portugal.


There are few issues which can provoke more fevered reactions amongst pianophiles than that of 'tone' at the piano. Whether or not differences of timbre are a reality or an illusion has been the subject of quite some debate, especially during the last century.
At the heart lies a fundamental question: is it possible to vary the timbre of a single note on the piano, independently of dynamics? Now, of course a very large amount of pianistic repertoire consists not of single notes but lines, chords, polyphony, textures achieved through superimposed layers and so on. In these cases, all sorts of issues of voicing, legato, articulation, pedalling, agogics, micro dynamic variation, and of course specific instruments and hall acoustics, come into play in producing timbral possibilities, not to mention further parameters when the piano playing is recorded.
But those of us who play some serial or other pointillistic music are perhaps more familiar with isolated notes than others (though notes in relative isolation do also play something of a part in some earlier repertoire), so for the purposes of this paper I want to stick to that fundamental question. I will first give an overview of how the subject and perceptions thereof informed a range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century piano treatises, then consider some more scientifically-oriented writings on the subject, leading to a consideration of how I have absorbed this issue in the context of my own playing, and also an overview of some contemporary works which have foregrounded this parameter.

Publication Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts
[thumbnail of Key Noise Paper - Aveiro Version.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (1MB) | Preview
[thumbnail of Key Noise Paper - Slides for Aveiro.ppt] Slideshow - Presentation
Download (3MB)


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login