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Remastering vs. Reperforming

A North Carolina software company called Zenph created technology that can analyze a recording of a piano performance and then reperform it.

The idea is simple: Old recordings sound old. Decades of amazing musical performances are hidden behind the limits of audio technology at the time they were recorded.

The Zenph “re-performance” process isn’t a remastering — that is, trying to fix an existing recording with equalization or noise reduction. Instead, it’s a new recording of a performance that scientifically matches the earlier one. Zenph uses a Yamaha Disklavier Pro, an actual acoustic piano that can, with a computer’s help, play back with microscopically accurate timing and sensitivity.

The question is: Is this good or bad?

Being a pianist, I can’t decide.  I would love to be able to hear higher quality reperformances of legendary pianists like Gyorgy Cziffra and Vladimir Horowitz in their prime, yet using technology in this fashion is the equivalent to capturing a person’s soul in a box to me.  If we can breakdown the essence of a musician’s passion and artistry into 1s and 0s, what’s going to stop us from taking it further?  Should we?

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June 1, 2007 Posted by | Music, Philosophy, Science and Technology, Software | 3 Comments