The Digital Piano Plays It’s Part – VI

Continuing the alphabetical listings of the lives of digital piano players (tongue in cheek) exploring letter L:

The Last Song (2010)

This film is centred around Veronica, pet named Ronnie, a teenager with attitude and musical talent on the digital piano. During the summer holidays she and her younger brother go to spend time with their father who shares Ronnie’s passion for music.

Ronnie strikes up a relationship with the ‘boy next door’ Will. The storyline winds itself around various events that ultimately bring Ronnie to make a decision to take her digital piano playing more seriously.

The film is made up of a montage of at least eighteen soundtracks entitled ‘’Last Song’’. They range from the ‘90s song of Elton John to JLS’s ‘’Outta This World’’ album. Elton John sits on his piano stool painting the lives in words of a father and son relationship summoned up in a predictable ballad. The digital piano plays its usual role with a strident chordal accompaniment in mid-range heard during the chorus and verse interspersed with the usual improvised fills between lines. The introduction is scored for a sustained ‘synth’ and a ‘panpipe’ sound played with generous reverb on an electric piano as Elton John gives his tender rendition.

In contrast, JLS can be heard singing a rap-influenced song at a similar tempo. Again the use of a sustained chord ‘synth’ sound played on the electric piano can be heard from the onset. It gives an ethereal feel to the music despite the heavily-accented syncopated rhythms.

 

The Legend of 1900 (1998)

This film translates from its Italian source as ‘La leggenda del pianista sull’oceano – the legend of the digital piano player on the ocean.

The storyline covers the usual flashbacks and opens as Max Tooney, musician needs to pawn his trumpet. He plays his instrument for the last time and the shopkeeper recognises the music being from a wax master of an unreleased recording, discovered in a digital piano salvaged from a cruise ship. The story begins with 1900; a baby that was born on the SS Virginian; his life, death and musical journey.

The years roll by and 1900 grows into a talented digital piano player. In all this time he has never left the ship. He joins the ships orchestra and the audience love him. A recording of 1990’s music is what the rest of this film hinges on…

The story moves on to the 1940s and the end of the end of W.W. II, as the ship has come to the end of its useful life. The SS Virginian is sunk off shore and 1900’s fate is sealed as he goes down with the ship. 1990 and his floating city are finally abandoned.

We are finally transported back to the pawn shop and as Max leaves the shop, the shopkeeper returns the trumpet to him.

Ennio Morricone was nominated for a Golden Satelitte Award for Best Original Score. His orchestral music is moody and haunting; his music for digital piano resurrects that of New Orleans Jazz and typifies the music of the age.

 

Jr

The Digital Piano Plays Its Part – V

Continuing the alphabetical listings of the lives of digital piano players (tongue in cheek) exploring letter I:

Would Beethoven have loved his digital pianoImmortal Beloved (1994)

So here we are again with yet another film about Beethoven; his ‘deafness and his demons.’ On Beethoven’s death his assistant and friend Schindler, is left to put his estate in order. Amongst his papers are three letters addressed to Beethoven’s ‘’immortal love’’. The film draws itself round Schlindler’s mission to discover who she is. This is carried out through flashbacks into Beethoven’s life from his prodigy years at the digital piano to his death. He finds it to be Johanna Riess who has given birth to Beethoven’s son.

Throughout the film Beethoven’s music can be heard from digital piano sonatas to concertos all composed by the master himself. Two of his most celebrated compositions cannot go unmentioned:

The unmistakable ‘Moonlight Sonata’ can be heard with its resounding ‘gong-like’ bass line echoing in step-wise movement. It forewarns of darker days ahead as the semi breves descend down the digital piano.  In the right-hand the adagio triplets – not to be rushed – underlie the dotted-rhythm motif that is known to all.

Fur Elise’ is charmingly executed with its light-hearted, repetitive motif heard in the right-hand. This is complimented by the ascending arpeggios of the left-hand. The lulling motion of the hands is such that the two ‘meet in the middle’ of the digital piano on several occasions and is perhaps significant of Beethoven’s life and loves.  Continue reading “The Digital Piano Plays Its Part – V”

The Digital Piano Plays Its Part – IV

Continuing the alphabetical listings of the lives of digital piano players (tongue in cheek) exploring letter F-G:

Four Minutes (2006)

Jenny is locked up in prison in Germany for murder. She is deeply troubled at every level but underneath her aggressive and brutish exterior lurks a sensitive side and a musical talent for playing the digital piano. It is revealed that Jenny was a child prodigy at the digital piano but abuse as a teenager put paid to her opportunity to excel. Frau Krueger tells Jenny of her past life in an attempt to win Jenny over.  The title of the film highlights the ‘Four Minutes’ Jenny has to perform to her audience and win the competition she has been preparing for.

Jenny does well at the competition but deviates from the original Schumann programme and plays a piece of ‘negro-music’ she has long since adored. She has the crowd in raptures and her Four Minutes bear fruit as she receives a great accolade for her performance on the digital piano.

The Getting Of Wisdom (1977)

This film is set in Melbourne in the 1890s. It is about a young student Laura Rambotham who excels at literacy and music. As the storyline progresses we hear digital piano compositions by Beethoven; an ‘Impromptu’ by Schubert and ornate passages by Thalberg. These motivic themes that serve to portray Laura’s anger and frustrations are played as recurring themes on the digital piano throughout the film.

Throughout her time at boarding school Laura tries to fit in both socially and academically during her stay. The film meanders through various relationships and finally witnesses Laura as a more accepted figure by her peers. She wins the school literacy and music prizes

Great Balls of Fire! (1989)

This film is about the life of singer and digital piano player Jerry Lee Lewis. It follows the ‘highs and lows’ of his controversial marriage to his cousin Myra. The song ‘’Great Balls of Fire’’ typifies the music of the ‘50s with its aggressive, punctuated chords ‘banged out’ in octaves on the digital piano. Lewis sits at his piano stool using the full range of keys and improvising in the upper register throughout the middle 8 section. He shows the keyboard off further with descending glissandos and his high pitched/falsetto moments that add a zany and experimental edge to his performance.

The Digital Piano Plays Its Part – III

Continuing the alphabetical listings of the lives of digital piano players (tongue in cheek) exploring letter F:

Fingers (1978)

You may recognise this film as being remade in 2005 as The Beat That My Heart Skipped’. Jimmy Angelelli comes from a complex parentage. His darker side reflects his father’s dominance as a loan shark as the aggressive side of Jimmy’s character is revealed. His sensitivity as a talented digital piano player comes from his mother’s ‘cut of the same cloth’. Continue reading “The Digital Piano Plays Its Part – III”

The Digital Piano Plays Its Part – II

Continuing the alphabetical listings of the lives of digital piano players (tongue in cheek) from B-C:

Beyond 88 Keys (2004)

This is a documentary film about the life of Michael Arnowitt, a Vermont peace activist and digital piano player. The film contains footage from live concerts both in the United States and in Europe, along with interview segments with Arnowitt, musical colleagues, arts presenters, and audience members. The film also looks into the backstage life of a concert digital piano player. Continue reading “The Digital Piano Plays Its Part – II”

The Digital Piano Plays Its Part

There are over thirty films that have been made since 1944 whose storyline is about a digital piano player. They span the alphabet from A-W so I thought you may find the following food for thought starting ‘from the top’:

Amadeus (1984)Amadeus Mozart and his digital piano

This film is a period drama set in Vienna in the latter half of the 18th century in which Salieri quickly recognises the genius of Mozart on the digital piano but frustrates his path to success out of envy. The young Mozart is course and naïve and often mocks Salieri’s compositions by playing them from memory including performing at the digital piano with his back to the keyboard! Extravagance and expense follow the brooding Mozart and soon leads to his demise. Music featured in the film is all composed by Mozart and encompasses digital piano concertos to operas starting with scenes of the child prodigy performing at his piano stool to his final hours working on ‘The Magic Flute’. Continue reading “The Digital Piano Plays Its Part”

Film Focus – All About The Digital Electric Piano

Have you ever stopped to think just how many films use the digital piano as their main focus be it in the title, or as a specific scene. For example, the following  films have titles dedicated to the electric piano;

The Digital Piano Teacher (2001)

This is a psychological drama about a failed concert digital grand piano player Erika Kohut. She is a dowdy spinster who lives with her elderly mother in an apartment in Vienna and teaches digital piano at the conservatory. Her life is an entangled web of solitary and less than moral kicks. Then she meets Walter, a student, who is attracted to her – the attraction leads her into a sado-masochistic relationship, carried out on Erika’s terms. The digital piano score comprises predominatly of Schubert electric piano scores. Continue reading “Film Focus – All About The Digital Electric Piano”

The Digital Piano – Modern Monster or Dinosaur

The instrument of choice

Ask any child what instrument they would most enjoy playing and they will reply without hesitation – the digital piano. Likewise, ask a worldly adult and they will equally reply –the digital piano. The minds of adults and children alike will instantaneously skip the hours of practice bequeathed to such an undertaking and instead conjure up images of success as they sit at their piano stool and execute their favourite pieces with ease. They are transformed into their favourite celebrity be it singer-songwriters Alesha Keys, Stevie Wonder or the child prodigy Mozart. Continue reading “The Digital Piano – Modern Monster or Dinosaur”

Your Guide To The ‘Do & Doo Doo’s’ Of The Digital Piano? Part 1

Firstly, do be aware that a digital piano is a modern electronic musical instrument, different from the electronic keyboard, designed to serve primarily as an alternative to a traditional piano, both in the way it feels to play and in the sound produced. When considering your purchase do remember that the digital piano is meant to provide a simulation of a real piano. Some digital pianos are also designed to look like an acoustic piano. While digital pianos may fall short of a real piano in feel and sound, they nevertheless have many advantages over normal pianos:

  • Compared to an acoustic piano, the digital piano is generally less expensive.
  • Most models are smaller and considerably lighter, but there are large ones as well.
  • They have no strings and thus do not require tuning. They also easily accommodate different temperaments on demand.
  • Depending on the individual features of each digital piano, they may include many more instrument sounds including strings, guitars, organs, and more.
  • They are much more likely to incorporate a MIDI implementation.
  • They may have more features to assist in learning and composition.
  • They usually include headphone output.
  • They often have a transposition feature.
  • They do not require the use of microphones, eliminating the problem of audio feedback in sound reinforcement, as well as simplifying the recording process.

Sound of a Digital Piano

In most implementations, a digital pianos do produces a variety of piano timbres and usually other sounds as well. For example, a digital piano may have settings for an electric piano, an upright piano, a tack piano, and various electric pianos such as the Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer. Some digital pianos incorporate other basic “synthesizer” sounds such as string ensemble, voice doo doo, world sounds and offer settings to combine them with piano.

The sounds produced by a digital piano are samples stored in ROM. The samples stored in digital pianos are usually of very high quality and are made using world class pianos, expensive microphones, and high-quality preamps in a professional recording studio.Digital pianos do have limitations on the faithfulness with which they reproduce the sound of an acoustic piano.

On an acoustic piano, the sustain pedal lifts the dampers for all strings, allowing them to resonate naturally with the notes played. Digital pianos all have a similar pedal switch to hold notes in suspension, but only some can reproduce the resonating effect.

Many digital pianos include an amplifier and loudspeakers so that no additional equipment is required to play the instrument. Some do not. Most digital pianos incorporate headphone output.

Footnote

So, do your homework and know the do’s & doo doo’s before entering into the world of the digital piano.

The Plot Thickens in Sparky’s Magic Digital Piano – Part IV

Even more characters…

Miss Sarah Pickett

She is Sparky’s digital piano teacher, who was always disappointed with him because of his lake of commitment to learn the electric piano. She was just as shocked as everyone else when Sparky played so well. Miss Pickett thinks that Sparky is the finest digital piano player she has ever heard and she was the person who thought of putting him on stage to play. She embarks on a strict regime of practice for Sparky and collates a repertoire of digital piano music that will dazzle audiences worldwide including Léonard Gautier’s ‘The Secret’ and Liszt’s ‘Hungarian Rhapsody’ No 2 in C#m which she cleverly arranges or electronic piano and orchestra! Moreover Miss Pickles was dazzled by the thought of fame and fortune. She had no qualms in pushing herself forward to tell the world’s press that she was the digital piano teacher of the child prodigy, Sparky.

Max

He is a music critic for National Magazine. In his job he sees the good and the bad and when he first sees Sparky, he pre- judges him and thinks he will be bad. One other thing clouds his judgement, he hates child prodigy’s, so when he finds out that Sparky is very good he tries to discredit him and find out his secret. He even tried to swap Sparky’s digital piano for an identical one, but Sparky was too smart for him and he swapped it back. Poor Max went mad when he saw Sparky playing the electric piano so elegantly Sam had to get the men in white coats to drag him away to the mental hospital.

Sam

He works with Max and follows him around most of the time. He isn’t as mean as Max and thinks that Sparky has a fantastic talent on the digital piano. He is always hungry and looking for something to eat. So there are all the characters.

Now sit back and watch the Sparky’s fly!

Jr