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True or false: Even the most artistic and conceptual elements of piano performance can be taught, learned or measured scientifically. Agree?

Agree
5 (22.7%)
Disagree
17 (77.3%)

Total Members Voted: 22

Topic: Art or Science?  (Read 2029 times)

Offline jeremyjchilds

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Art or Science?
on: July 05, 2005, 07:17:26 PM
If you disagree, what are the intangibles, if any?
"He who answers without listening...that is his folly and his shame"    (A very wise person)

Offline thalbergmad

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #1 on: July 05, 2005, 07:39:42 PM
I cannot even begin to imagine how artistry can be measured scientifically.

What would be the unit of measurement??

Arts?
Curator/Director
Concerto Preservation Society

Offline TheHammer

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #2 on: July 05, 2005, 07:45:19 PM
Well, you can measure the sound you produce, that is dynamics, articulation, rubato or not, metric, etc. If you narrow a piano performance down to mere sound production (of course in a very organized way) you sure could "measure" it. So, what he is asking, I think, is if there is something more behind a performance, or even behind the sound, other than these measurable qualities.


I am not sure. I think, if you consider the whole process of performance, than the audience and their reaction (and therefore the reaction of the performer as well) is not measurable (since it is subjective). Question is, can we affect this reaction in another way then by the measurable qualities of the sound we produce?  :-\

Offline Floristan

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #3 on: July 05, 2005, 07:51:11 PM
I don't think personality can be measured or taught.  You've got it or you don't.  It's intangible.  Successful performers have it; unsuccessful ones don't.

Personality is necessarily part of interpretation.  Horowitz is the easy example.  No one had a stage presence like Horowitz, and no one sounded like Horowitz.  Argerich is another easy example.

Offline TheHammer

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #4 on: July 05, 2005, 08:06:37 PM
Thought experiment: Horowitz while playing a piece, his arms and fingers have little sensors measuring the force with which he hits the key (so everything involved into this, every muscle is measured, speed of the fingers, the weight behind them, etc, and don't forget the pedals).

Now we build the Horowitz 2000, a piano playing roboter, feed him with the data of our scans and let him play this piece exactly the same way. Possible that you are not able to know which performance is "real"? Possible that they are indeed the same?
If you agree to this, it means just that performance is measurable, according to the question. What some others put up, is if aristery or personality is measurable. But these affect just how you use your finger to play the piano, and these finger actions are measurable (at least theoretically). Or is there something else behind it? Please elaborate how personality affects a performance in a non-measurable way.

(I agree that one cannot measure the personality itself. You cannot predict how Horowitz is playing this and that piece, or was playing for that matter. But that is not the question, is it? No, really, is it? I don't know for sure.)

Offline jhon

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #5 on: July 05, 2005, 08:10:25 PM
I disagree.  In the first place, art and science are direct OPPOSITES and science itself had alsmost claimed it by formulating this "RIGHT-LEFT BRAIN" theory wherein the right is for arts while the left is for science - did I remember it right?

Offline Derek

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #6 on: July 05, 2005, 08:12:03 PM
I'd say the biggest difference is that when a human performer plays a piece, in a very literal physical sense the energy in the sound that travels through the air and lands on your ear comes from within his own body. Its not just the interpretation of the piece that comes from within---the very energy in the sound of the music comes from him.

Even if a machine were to reproduce every subtlety of any particular performance, it wouldn't be coming from within the artist. Only the information in this reproduced performance would be...not the energy.  To me that means a lot...it may seem cooky or spiritual but I think its very important for music to sound good.  This is why I hate keyboards and love electric guitar:  electric guitar sounds are determined much more by the energy that a player puts into the strings. And its finally why I love acoustic piano the most of all: it is the most efficient device for converting human energy into glorious sound.

Offline TheHammer

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #7 on: July 05, 2005, 08:15:48 PM
That is exactly what I mean Derek! Is there this energy, or is it not, that is the question here... and the best thing, I have no clue. What makes you think there is this "energy" as you call it, that transcendends the mere, physical sound? Or is this something one has t feel. I for sure get the feeling there is something special behind a performance, especially live performance, but then, I don't know if this is just made up by my brain...

Offline Derek

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #8 on: July 05, 2005, 08:17:27 PM
I mean that the energy in the sound of an acoustic piano comes LITERALLY from inside the human's body, its a physical conservation of energy law that I'm talking about here.  The biochemical energy in the human turns into kinetic energy in the hands, which is then turned into more kinetic energy in the form of a pressure wave in the air.

If a robot were to do this, the energy in teh sound would originate in a power plant hundreds of miles away. And to me, power plant energy is not quite as intimate or spiritual as the energy from a human being.

So yes, what i'm saying is that even if the pressure wave of the sound of a robotic performance is exactly the same within an incredibly tiny margin as a human one, the difference is the source of energy. And I believe this can be sensed by a keen listener!

I agree, there is no musical experience like live performances (whether it be your own to yourself or watching and listening to someone else play). It is far superior to listening to a stereo, partly because of the acoustics and partly what we've just observed here.

Offline TheHammer

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #9 on: July 05, 2005, 08:24:04 PM
Ah okay, this energy. Still, what makes you think this biochemical energy is more intimat than "power plant energy". It is, after all, quite comparable... Why would this affect the performance and how do you feel it...

Just realized that my thought experiment is completely superfluous. Just wanted to bring in Horowitz 2000... ;D
Er, yes, because we have the same with recordings, recordings can only be produced because you measure what is there in a performance, record it, and play it again. So obiously all the sound is conserved, whereas the energy, or the intangible, or whatever, is not. So, is there an actual difference between recording and live performance ASIDE from your own experience (enjoyment, excitement, seeing the performer, etc.) and of course acoustics or sound quality? I doubt and have not decided, so convince me...

Offline Derek

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #10 on: July 05, 2005, 09:04:53 PM
Allow me to give some examples:

1) Recordings of old player pianos (playing a roll) is too far removed from a real performance to be fully enjoyable for me. (this would probably be similar to a robot performing a piece)

2) Recordings of a human playing at a piano, even if there are a few splices (or punches as they now call them I suppose) for errors, is much more enjoyable.

3) Live performances are the best because of the acoustics and the sort of unspoken, sixth sense shared experience with the artist of the music being played. (this includes practicing and playing for yourself)


The question is degree of removal from that human energy in the music. I'm willing to settle for recordings---because of the immense convenience. But a robot or a player piano...or midi....bleh.  Though midi has other obvious uses such as quickly browsing scarlatti's works, for example.

Come to think of it, music such as Scarlatti lends itself well to machine-like playing and actually sounds pretty good that way.  I still prefer human performances even then, however.

It is my opinion that Romantic music is indeed the most human of all classical music styles and can never be played by a machine the way a human can. (unless we record the human, in which case the source of the excellent performance is still a human).

Humans kick ass!

Offline TheHammer

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #11 on: July 05, 2005, 09:39:25 PM
Okay, okay, I have understood you, but still: WHY do you think this energy makes human live performances so special?
Another thing, as I said, Horowitz 2000 = recording, even better, because he plays on the real piano.

new thought: perhaps performance is /is not measurable according to the beliefs of the audience. When a person thinks there is no such thing as the "energy" or some sixth sense thing, he may see no difference between a recording (or H2000 ;D) and a live performance. Whereas, someone who thinks that it does matter if you can feel the "energy" of the performer will have a different attitude to the whole performance, so that his reaction to it cannot be measured since it is on a spiritual level (or can even this be measured? :o). So it would depend on your disposition: believing into the physical, mere sound explanation means everything there is, is hitting the right keys the right time. You won't feel any difference if there is a robot, a monkey or LangLang. Wait, bad example... You get it, I think.

Now the bad thing is, I don't know which group I belong to.  :o ???

Offline dikai_yang

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #12 on: July 05, 2005, 10:26:15 PM
YES!!
For one, everybody listens to MP3s
The music of your favorite pianist stored on the computer digitally
that means it is possible to reproduce the exact same music elsewhere
digital music is like a two-dimensional array
say 24bit/128kbps, the former divides the pitch into 24bits which is 2^24 levels
128kbps is the time sampling division,
with this, it can reproduce the analogue music in digital form that we humans can't tell apart
it is proved by Niquest's sampling theory, where if the sampling frequency is at least two times the highest frequency component in the signal, the exact signal can be reproduced
-----
this is to say that it is possible,
but not likely if a human being were to do it
since a computer is able to process that many variations of possibilities nearly instantly
while humans can't
but the emotions and everything about music, can be quantified
since a piano is after all a mechnical device,
it does not have a "soul plugin",
how a key is pressed can be nearly exactly reproduced
the difficult part is that a complete piece of music has a large number of combination of key strokes each with a uniquely quantified strength
it is nearly impossible for a human being to repoduce it...
but a computer can!

Offline dikai_yang

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #13 on: July 05, 2005, 10:30:16 PM
robots that can play beautiful piano music have long existed,
but there is this bias in every of us thinking that the music played by robot is emotionless
however, to be completely honest and truthful, nobody can tell the difference if he/she did not see the robot
---
it is wrong for us to say that some music is beautiful
and when we learn that a robot plays it, we say ohhH... that's why it is so bad...
very wrong

Offline dikai_yang

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #14 on: July 05, 2005, 10:38:52 PM
Why does the "energy" make a difference,
simple, everybody is biased,
you think that someone is good, when you watch him play you say it's good
even tho someone else (unfamous) plays something exactly the same way (i do mean exactly), you would not find it particularly good, because there's not that "energy" (bias)
---
picaso (duno the spelling) whatever he paints, weird or not, people always find a way to justify it while other younger artists do the same and get critisized

hamingway, whatever he writes people approve.  this is especially interesting.  it is said that he style is to use "simple" words.  when other people use "simple" words to write something, it's critisized as not being sophisticated enough
---

another example to show that we're all biased.  this example, is our ears biased for the first recording of the music that we hear.  because if you notice, if the same piece is played again anywhere else, we always compare it to the first one we've ever heard.
---
but then.... that's life

Offline Nightscape

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #15 on: July 05, 2005, 11:09:15 PM
Let's elaborate a little on the whole robot issue.

Let's say we do the same thing, but for Argerich.  Scientists use sophisticated sensors and brain scans to monitor and record exactly every single burst of electricity in her body - all of the brain signals, all of the muscle signals.  Then, using AI, they develop a program that acts exactly like the brain and nervous system of her body.  Furthermore, they download this program into two separate robots - one that looks and moves exactly like Martha Argerich, and another which has no outer skin - in other words, you can see the metal parts.  The scientists who do this of course tell no one (except Martha, because she's in on this little experiment.)  The scientists then schedule two concerts in the same city a week apart.  On one concert the look-alike Martha robot will play, and on another the plain robot will play.  Despite the fact that both robots play exactly the same way, and futhermore the same way the real Martha plays, the reviews of the two nights are drastically different.  Critics and the audience praise the concert with the real Martha - "She's done it again, folks!" - unbeknownst to the fact it is really a robot.  However, the response to the 2nd concert is a bit different.  People say  - "Well, science has certainly made advances and it played the pieces technically perfect, but science can never duplicate "aht".  Others say, "It just wasn't human, it's playing was lifeless."  Of course the scientists are a bit confused, because other than external appearance, the two robots are exactly alike.

This little experiment illustrates the most basic human emotions.  People are comfortable and happy with the familar - the robot that looked like Martha.  But people become suspicious and distrustful of what they don't know or are unfamiliar with, often without good reason.  This represents the response to the metal robot.  This basic "fear of the unknown" has been one of the most powerful and influential forces in human history.

In the end, it is simply psychological.  When people make music into "aht", they no longer think so much about the actual music - the sound waves in the air - but instead begin to think more about the performer and composer in metaphysical, philosophical ways.  There is no physical difference between the robot Martha and the real Martha - thier music is EXACTLY the same in every way.  Only the mind of a listener can warp and twist the sound and thier reaction to it in such a way as to create a difference between them.

Offline dikai_yang

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #16 on: July 05, 2005, 11:24:55 PM
to nightscape:

awesome stuff.... "fear of the unknown" huh... nice one, never thought of that...
so... after all, it's the audience that creates the "emotions" eh...
----
the most basic idea that i have is that...
a piano is a mechanical device
no matter how the pianist plays, there are limited combinations (althought too many) of ways that the sound can come out of it....
pianist to piano = analog-to-digital A-to-D converter (ADC)
piano to audience = digital-to-analog D-A converter (DAC)
piano is mechanical (digital)

Offline MattL

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #17 on: July 06, 2005, 02:56:34 AM
Science is resolute, passion is spontaneous. Think about it :-*

Offline jeremyjchilds

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #18 on: July 06, 2005, 03:21:38 AM
I usually don't reply to my own thread, but I don't think science and passion have to be mutually exclusive.
Some of the most "scientific" music is also some of the most passionate!!
Schoenberg for example

Just a thought, I may be wrong
"He who answers without listening...that is his folly and his shame"    (A very wise person)

Offline MattL

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #19 on: July 06, 2005, 03:25:49 AM
Sorry look down :o

Offline MattL

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #20 on: July 06, 2005, 03:34:53 AM
When you listen to passionate music do you really believe that there is a systematic way to fabricate that passion, or do you (as I do) believe that when you understand the music, only then can you portray the passion of that piece?


Mozart comes from the brain
Beethoven comes from the heart


And nobody is wrong in an analytical thread that is not fact based ;)

Offline Derek

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #21 on: July 06, 2005, 03:49:53 AM
The problem with this sort of thought experiment is of course, is it even possible to create a machine that can hit the keys of the piano in EXACTLY the same way a human can?

Also we should add: If we made a robot that could do this, its performance would be a DUPLICATE of something a human created.

Perhaps the thought experiment should be: will there ever be an artificially intelligent robot which can perform piano music (maybe even improvise) as well as a human without duplicating a HUMAN performance?

Even if we were to do that, we would be copying the design of a human being.


Whats funny about all this is, is I will probably have a job designing robots some day. I'm utterly fascinated by artificial neural networks.

Offline Nightscape

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #22 on: July 06, 2005, 04:22:39 AM
Who knows if it's possible or not..... but I was using it as a theoretical example to illustrate my point about human suspicion.

As far as robots duplicating human performances, is that really any different than humans duplicating other human's performances?  All of us aspire to play like the great pianists.... we even take lessons from other musicians and learn to "imitate" the "correct" way to play.  Of course at some point a pianist no longer needs to imitate, since he has learned as much as he can from others.  But the Martha robot I mentioned does not merely duplicate a performance like a CD player does, it "learns" to think, behave, and play just like Martha.  This is not a robot that duplicates, it is a robot that provides his own "personal" interpretation of the work!  Of course, you could program the robot to play slightly different than Martha, and to learn repetoire she doesn't play.  This would make the robot a unique pianist, one who no longer merely imitates.

But you're right in that the technology required would be immense and by then we probably would have devised better instruments than the piano - instruments that are more beautiful, versatile, and also easy to learn how to play well.

Offline Derek

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #23 on: July 06, 2005, 08:21:56 PM
I'm kind of skeptical the human race will ever devise a musical instrument better than the acoustic piano, with the way things are going most people seem much more inclined to coagulate into a blob in front of a television set than to challenge themselves with learning a musical instrument.

There would need to be some sort of "Renaissance 2" for that to be likely, I think.

But here's an interesting question, would this new instrument be electric or acoustic?

I personally wouldn't WANT an easier instrument...part of the fun is the endless challenge of it. Thats why I now am bored to hell by video games and never play them anymore. Unless I play with other people....then the challenge is endless because your opponents are unpredictable.

Offline nanabush

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #24 on: July 07, 2005, 12:51:17 AM
I don't think emotions can be taught scientifically...  ;D
Interested in discussing:

-Prokofiev Toccata
-Scriabin Sonata 2

Offline MattL

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #25 on: July 07, 2005, 02:03:28 AM
Every person plays with certain nuances in each performacne they play, and although this is might not be true, it  seems that every time someone plays a piece they already have played, the interpretation changes, be it dramatically or only slightly.

Offline Tash

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #26 on: July 07, 2005, 03:43:26 AM
this reminds me of the age when scientists were obsessed with mechanical philosophy and attempted to create a mathematical, logical reason for absolutely everything on the planet. and it kind of worked, until they had issues trying to explain things like how the mind works, emotion, how a sperm and an egg manages to grow into a baby (one guy had this great hypothesis that there was this tiny little person inside the sperm! cos nobody could prove him wrong at the time cos microsopes weren't good enough).
so i think in terms of most aspects, yes music can be explained scientifically, but i don't believe emotion, like everyone's saying, can be explained in logical terms. well it could be, but i'm a romanticist at heart (no matter how much i love the logicality of maths) and like having an element of the unexplainable- have a good little dose of mystery!
'J'aime presque autant les images que la musique' Debussy

Offline nanabush

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Re: Art or Science?
Reply #27 on: July 07, 2005, 07:15:11 PM
Ya you can't explain in a mathematical equation why playing in pure quiet will make you play ...  or why playing in the dark will make you play...
Interested in discussing:

-Prokofiev Toccata
-Scriabin Sonata 2
 

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