Pianists with small hands have to overcome considerable physical challenges in order to be able to play great literature for the piano. Oftentimes those challenges lead to muscle strain and even career-ending injuries. To address the unique needs of smaller hands, engineer and business owner David Steinbuhler collaborated with pianist Christopher Donison in 1991 to develop a new set of standard sizes and prototypes of smaller piano keyboards.
The magic for creating these smaller keyboards takes place in David Steinbuhler's Titusville, Pennsylvania ribbon factory, a family-run business that has been around since 1897 . Step inside and you'll see thousands and thousands of spools of ribbons and rolls of string made to create those ribbons, along with an endless array of machinery, much of it custom built by David's grandfather and uncle. Because they need to make their own parts and tools, David's factory uses a number of specialized machines called CNC, or Computer Numeric Control machines, which use computers to precisely design and cut out parts from wood.
David's piano keyboard workshop can be found on the second floor of his factory, surrounded by old pianos and tools used to create his custom Donison Steinbuhler smaller sized keyboards.
Note: This episode was originally produced as a video documentary. Be sure to visit amusicallife.com to watch the full video.
Steinbuhler & Company Website: http://www.steinbuhler.com/index.html
PASK Pianists for Alternatively Sized Keyboards website: http://www.paskpiano.org/index.html
Kayhan Kalhor is one of the greatest living masters of the Kamancheh, a 3 or 4 stringed Persian spiked fiddle and ancient predecessor to the modern cello. Kayhan performs around the world extensively as a soloist and collaborator with a wide variety of musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road ensemble.
The kamancheh is an incredibly soulful, deeply expressive instrument that can sound like the human voice or a woodwind instrument in the right hands. Talking with Kayhan gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore the world of Persian classical music, a field that is completely new to me, with an outside perspective that I imagine might be similar to someone who doesn’t know anything about Western classical music. What should I be listening for? What are the elements helpful to understand so that I can gain a deeper appreciation for the beautiful sounds I hear?
Kayhan's website: http://www.kayhankalhor.net/
Silk Road Project: https://www.silkroadproject.org/
Hector Olivera was a child prodigy on the organ, having performed for the likes of Eva Perón, the first lady of Argentina, when he was only five. Hector has since become an international sensation, performing on all the great cathedral organs around the world, as well as embracing the possibilities of digital organs with his stunning live performances of classical as well as popular and movie transcriptions.
The mighty pipe organ has been hailed as the “king of instruments”, with its ability to reproduce the sounds of entire orchestras, and actually has been in existence since the time of the ancient Greeks. Throughout its history, the organ represented the cutting edge of technological and musical capabilities. It’s rather curious that in recent times, with the advent of digital organ technologies that simulate the massive pipe structures and add more sound and performance capabilities, there has been quite a bit of resistance from traditional organists to embrace these newer, smaller instruments. Hector Olivera is a remarkable musician who freely embraces both traditional and digital perspectives, and his performances leave you wondering, “how is it possible that one person could play all those instrument sounds all at once?”
Hector's Website: http://www.hectorolivera.com/
Seymour Lipkin was an esteemed faculty member of the Juilliard School and The Curtis Institute of Music. His understated persona coupled with a towering intellect resulted in a passionate fidelity to the composer’s intent on the score, as can be heard in his complete recordings of the Beethoven and Schubert piano sonatas. A longtime director of the Kneisel Hall summer chamber music festival in Blue Hill, Maine, Mr. Lipkin died near his beloved festival last year at the age of 88.
On Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 pm, there will be a memorial concert in honor of Seymour Lipkin at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, featuring his former piano students Koji Attwood, Steve Beck, Andrius Zlabys, Jenny Q. Chai, Rieko Aizawa, Lora Tchekoratova, and Ieva Jokubaviciute, with Laurie Smukler on Violin and Joel Krosnick on Cello. Visit http://amusicallife.com/lipkin for tickets and information.
Seymour Lipkin's Website: http://seymourlipkin.com/