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Anne Beetem Acker

Line of MIDI-based reproducing player pianos introduced by Yamaha Corporation in 1982 (1986 in North America). The Disklavier system combines an acoustic piano with an electromechanical player-piano system. As in other such systems, fibre-optic sensors register the movement of keys, hammers, and pedals during performance, while the digital controller operates a bank of solenoids installed under the piano’s key bed; one solenoid is positioned under the tail of each key, with additional solenoids connected to the pedal rods. Performance information is stored digitally on CD-ROM, floppy discs (still used for many accompaniments for instructional piano material), or a hard drive. Disklavier systems can be connected to sequencers, tone modules, and computers via MIDI and Ethernet. A built-in speaker system attached to the case under the soundboard is used to play back optional digital piano sound and especially for playback of accompanying orchestral or vocal tracks.

Unlike other electronic player systems, the Disklavier is only installed in new Yamaha pianos and only at the factory. It cannot be installed in older Yamahas or other brands of pianos. Compared with other systems, the Disklavier’s recording capability is generally regarded to be of the highest quality and sophistication. Of the Disklavier models available in ...

Article

Hugh Davies

A polyphonic digital synthesizer developed by Dean Wallraff in the late 1970s and manufactured by his company Digital Music Systems of Boston, MA (originally Brooklyn, NY) beginning in 1980. The DMX-1000 was designed to be controlled by a master computer, such as the PDP 11 made by the Digital Equipment Corporation (which also forms part of the DMX-1010 package). The complete system includes a visual display unit, two disc drives, an alphanumeric keyboard and a real time control panel. The first commercially-produced digital synthesizer offering microprogramming, the DMX-1000 has a ‘transparent’ capability, permitting any combination of synthesizer modules to be programmed using the Music 1000 digital signal processing language (which was developed for the DMX-1000). It allows signal processing of synthesized, live, and pre-recorded sounds, and was used for speech synthesis. Faced with competition from Yamaha, Wallraff left the synthesizer business in the mid-1980s and turned first to composing, then to Internet distribution of educational software, and finally to practising law. (D. Wallraff: ‘The DMX-...

Article

Laurence Libin

American firm of piano makers, active in New York from 1791 to 1793. The brief partnership of Thomas Dodds (b England; d ?New York, c1799) and Christian Claus (b ?Stuttgart, Germany; d New York, after 1799) was among the first to establish the piano industry in New York.

Dodds arrived in New York from London in 1785. In an advertisement in the Independent Journal of 13 August 1785, he offered to sell, repair, and tune string, wind, and keyboard instruments at his house on Queen Street, and cited his experience as an organ, harpsichord, and piano maker for “upwards of twenty years.” He was granted American citizenship in 1788. In 1789 he sold a piano to George Washington for his stepdaughter’s lessons. He was also active as a mahogany merchant from 1789 to 1793. In 1783 Claus had received a patent in London for a key mechanism applied to the English guitar. In New York he continued to build English guitars and repair violins; he is listed in city directories from ...

Article

Brandon Smith

German manufacturer of electronic music products, particularly MIDI controllers and modular synthesizers. The company was founded in Munich by Dieter Doepfer in 1977. The first products were modules for other companies’ systems, such as Formant and PMS (Polyphonic Modular System). In the late 1980s and early 90s the focus shifted mainly to MIDI controllers and MIDI-to-CV converters (devices that create analogue voltages from a MIDI input). In 1992 Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk consulted with Doepfer to help create the MAQ16/3, an analogue step sequencer with MIDI capabilities. In the same year the company moved to Gräfelfing and became a limited liability corporation, with a staff of six. Doepfer was one of the small companies during the 1990s that offered genuine analogue synthesizers, such as the MS-404, a MIDI-controlled monophonic synthesizer designed to emulate the Roland TB-303. In 1996 Doepfer released the extensive A-100 modular synthesizer series; these feature all the traditional synthesizer modules (oscillators, filters, envelope generators etc.) as well as innovative modules such as the A-178 theremin control voltage source and a series of modules inspired by the Trautonium, invented in Germany by Oskar Sala in ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Chinese piano manufacturer. An outgrowth of the government-owned Shanghai Piano Factory, founded in the 1920s, the Dongbei Piano Factory was established in 1952 in Yingkou City in Liaoning province of northeastern China (dongbei means ‘northeast’) to take advantage of the high quality of local wood. For many years, the firm made only upright pianos. In 1988, after the Swedish firm Nordiska went out of business, Dongbei purchased the designs and equipment for the Nordiska Model 116, an upright superior to Dongbei’s. Dongbei formed an agreement in 1991 with the Korean firm Daewoo whereby Daewoo helped Dongbei produce uprights. This arrangement was extended in 1996 to include grand piano production and ended with Dongbei buying most of Daewoo’s equipment and designs after the latter ceased piano manufacture in 1997; some of Daewoo’s designers and technicians then went to work for Dongbei. In 1994 Dongbei began to export their Sagenhaft uprights to the USA....

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A system of Aliquot scaling introduced by Steinway to provide sympathetic resonance to enrich the treble register of the piano. In the ‘octave duplex’ piano by Hoerr of Toronto, each note had four strings, of which two, three or four might be struck by the hammer depending on one of four pedals being depressed (see ‘The Octave Duplex Piano’, ...

Article

British firm of Synthesizer and electronic instrument manufacturers. It was founded in Putney, London, by Peter Zinovieff in 1969, and subsequently owned by Datanomics of Wareham, Dorset (from 1979), the composer Edward Williams (from 1982), and Robin Wood (from 1995). Since the 1980s it has been based near Truro, Cornwall. The company’s best-known product is the Putney or VCS-3. ...

Article

Hugh Davies

An 88-note upright Electric piano designed by Maurice Krakauer Bretzfelder (1905–66) and manufactured by Krakauer Bros. of New York from about 1937. Based on the patent for Benjamin F. Miessner’s Electronic Piano, it had no soundboard, the vibrations of its strings being converted into voltage variations by three separately controllable sets of electrostatic pickups placed at different positions to produce different timbres. In addition to the two normal pedals, it had a swell pedal. In 1940 it was advertised as incorporating a radio and a phonograph, the latter installed in the bench.

Bretzfelder was the great-grandson of Simon Krakauer, founder of the piano firm, and was in charge of manufacturing from 1929; he was elected president of the firm in 1951. At Columbia University in the 1950s he assisted in developing a device for measuring galvanic skin resistance in children. The Bretzfelder family, from New Haven, Connecticut, were related to the prominent instrument collector Morris Steinert. (M.K. Bretzfelder: ‘Latest Tone-controlled Electronic Piano’, ...