Monday, September 05, 2011

Keyboard Expressiveness

I enjoyed this "Brooklyn Organ Synth Orchestra" clip of "Tubular Bells" so much that I eventually bought the song. Have a look:

As interesting as it is to see all these organs and synths at work, I'm always struck by how RELIEVED I am when the good old straightforward piano comes in at the end, bringing with it a warmth and depth that the rest of the song lacks. It gives me goosebumps! Even compared to the organs, the piano somehow sounds more EXPRESSIVE.

This has started me wondering: is the piano REALLY more expressive than a Hammond organ or an Omnichord? Is it more capable of conveying emotion than any other keyboard instrument?

That really does seem to be the case in THIS song, but that may have something to do with the relative skill of the player (Natasha Bartolf has obviously spent a lot of time with the piano so she may have more of a "connection" to it than -- perhaps -- Natalie Weiss with the Stylophone). Also, some of the instruments in the video ARE notably limited...that's part of their charm.

So I started thinking about synth virtuosos, the men and women who have spent their lives dickering with synthesizers. Manfred Mann has certainly bemoaned the lack of expressiveness in modern keyboards, but it's hard to compare his synth performances with virtuoso piano because he tends to use monophonic instruments. Bernie Worrell's more extravagant keyboard solos sound a bit farty these days. Thomas Dolby's synths are warmer than most, but still revel in a certain "coldness." Richard Tandy relies more on novelty than anything else.

I haven't looked into this enough. Is there something unique about the piano's ability to "express" the music that comes out of it, far beyond a pitch bend and a mod wheel?

1 comment:

Raven said...

That was fun (and funky)! Thanks for sharing...