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Article

Piano  

Cynthia Adams Hoover and Edwin M. Good

[pianoforte; fortepiano]

A keyboard instrument, the strings of which are struck by rebounding hammers. It was originally called pianoforte (It.: “soft-loud”) or fortepiano, because the loudness of its sound could be varied by the player’s touch. The piano has played an important role in American life since the late 18th century, when learning the instrument was considered a genteel occupation for young ladies; by the late 19th century it had become an essential item in many homes. American piano builders, seeking to satisfy the taste of American musicians and to meet the challenges of the American climate, developed manufacturing and sales techniques and new features, such as the one-piece metal frame, which by the 1870s enabled them to dominate the world piano trade.

Pianos were used and made in North America by the 1770s. The earliest known reference to a piano there is a notice in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury...

Article

Czech underground band formed in Prague in 1968. Its principal members were Milan (Mejla) Hlavsa (1950–2002; founder, lead vocal, bass, composer), Vratislav Brabenec (b 1943; saxophone, clarinet), Josef Janíček (b 1947; guitar, keyboards, vocals), Jiří Kabeš (b 1946; violin, viola), and Martin (Ivan) Jirous [Magor (‘Loony’)] (1944–2011; artistic director/manager). Their main influences included The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa, and The Fugs. With psychedelic stagecraft that included fires built in urn-like receptacles, flickering flying saucers, painted faces, and togas, the PPU started performing weekly shows in February 1969. These props served the band’s concept of a mythological world of sun and planets and what they called the ‘great nation’ that ‘lives in velvet underground’. This early repertoire was sung mostly in English with Czech recitatives in between. Their innovative approach and charisma helped them attract a devoted audience and win the national competition of amateur bands in ...

Article

Richard Widdess

revised by Laurence Libin

(from Sanskrit: ‘that which is heard’)

Small bellows-pumped Reed organ of India. It provides a drone in popular and, sometimes, classical music, assuming the function of the Tambūrā; nowadays it sometimes also functions melodically. In Indian music theory, śruti (sur in north India) is the smallest audible interval, a microtone; especially a microtone as opposed to a scale degree (svara). According to the Nātyasāstra of Bharata (early centuries ce) there were 22 śruti to the octave and seven svara, spaced at intervals of two, three and four śruti. Bharata’s demonstration of this theory using two vīṇā proves only that the śruti were regarded as equal in size, and that the scales were tuned by ear. The relationship of intervals to string lengths is first discussed in the works of Hṛdaya Nārāyana and Ahobala Paṇḍita (c1660). From the 18th century the relevance of Bharata’s śruti concept to current practice became a matter of contentious debate among both Indian and European scholars, fuelled both by Orientalist interest in parallels with ancient Greek scale theory, and by an indigenous re-evaluation of music as an ancient Hindu tradition....