Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Authentic or Modified

In our world of synthesized music, housing, and even printer generated weaponry there comes a point where it becomes difficult to tell the fabricated from the ‘real McCoy’.   There was an article published explaining how somebody figured out a way to print out an entire automobile, something they called 3-D printing. 

What’s next…3-D printed humans?

Digital music hangs in the air and comes to us via the internet; we take it for granted, just another App on our computer, Android phone or Kindle.  Instead of going to the Record Store to purchase the latest album we download all or part of an album and have it charged to our account.  Heck, it’s hard to find music on a CD or phonograph record unless you happen to be at some place like Half Price Books where they specialize in selling used material.

I grew up in the age when tape recorded music was taking the place of vinyl phonograph recordings; reel to reel, 8 tracks and cassettes. Most folks from my generation will recall a marketing ploy to sell recording cassette tape,  Is it live or is it Memorex?”  We all rushed out to get the latest innovation; their marketing strategy worked.

The generation before mine had Player Piano Roll music, a chance to own and play your favorites there in the comfort of your living room; provided you had a Player Piano on which to play them.  These offered a fair representation of the artist’s work while at the same time falling a bit short on Ella Fitzgerald’s challenge, “Is it live or is it Memorex?”

Some enterprising individual came up with a modern day solution, a means whereby piano roll music could be fed through a computer attached to a grand piano and render a performance which closely matched that of the original performance.  There might be other versions of the contraption; but the one I’m familiar with is a 9-foot Yamaha Disklavier grand piano.  It magically transforms piano roll music which has been recorded to a CD and then spits out a “note-for-note” performance as if played by the original performer. 

While listening to Pandora Radio via my laptop this afternoon a favorite Gershwin tune landed on my ear, An American in Paris.  This version was entirely a piano piece; four handed and clear as a bell.  I could hear the genius of Gershwin floating within and throughout; but knew it wasn’t Gershwin playing because I had this recording on CD.

I went to my library and found the copy of this recording, Gershwin Plays Gershwin / The Piano Rolls.  Inside the jacket of the CD was a small booklet explaining how the recordings were made, each a piano roll converted to digital on a CD and played on the Disklavier grand piano.

The last tune, An American in Paris, was an arrangement by Frank Milne and “played”, if that term applies to putting holes in a roll of paper fed into a piano, “played” by Milne and Leith; but if you read further, Leith was a pseudonym for Milne.  Milne figured out a way to “play” all four hands of an original Gershwin piano roll so that when fed into the Disklavier it came out as a seamless performance which captures the mindset and magic as if George Gershwin had given a command performance. 

“We have no evidence that Gershwin supervised Milne’s arrangement of An American in Paris but the arranger had previously worked with Gershwin on his late Duo-Art song rolls.  Milne’s version of An American in Paris ingeniously evokes not only the full sonority of an orchestra but also the vitality of a live performance.”

Some might say this was a forgery based on the printed claim on the CD jacket, Gershwin Plays Gershwin; but as far as I know Gershwin never recorded onto CD, it was before his time.  Whether it’s authentic or modified, real or Memorex; sit back and let your spirit enjoy the music of a bygone era.

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

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