- Laurence Libin
Trademarked name for a novel tangent piano, introduced in 2009, that allows microtonal tuning before and during performance. It was conceived and patented by the British composer and hammer dulcimer player Geoff Smith and developed and built by Christopher J. Barlow in Somerset, England. The prototype resembles structurally an early 19th-century Viennese wood-framed grand piano with straight bichord stringing and a conventional keyboard encompassing five octaves and a 3rd (F′–a‴). Essentially the innovation is a separate movable plastic nut (coloured white or black corresponding to the keys) for each bichord; by sliding a nut manually forwards or backwards in a groove on the wrestplank, those strings’ sounding length, strike-point ratio and pitch are changed. Adjustment of as much as a half-step above and below ordinary pitch is possible (the instrument is normally tuned in equal temperament at a′ = 440Hz) during performance, as are glissandos. Treble and bass dampers can be operated separately or together and a moderator provides additional tonal variety. Two additional pedals for a second player standing at the curve of the bentside control dampers for a separate three-octave set of sympathetic strings (which can also be microtonally tuned and directly struck or plucked) and operate the regular treble dampers. Touted as ‘multicultural’ because it accommodates intervals and pitch inflections used in non-Western musics, the Fluid Piano also has inspired new composition. The University of Surrey as an educational partner of the Fluid Tuning Organization has commissioned works for the instrument and promotes its use. The Fluid Piano was preceded by a Fluid Dulcimer. See ...