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Tickling The Ivories

The Ether Game Brain Trust explores the fine way of the Steinway!

We have 88 reasons why you should listen to Ether Game!

This week, the Ether Game Brain Trust is exploring the fine way of the Steinway! We have 88 reasons that you’ll enjoy this all-keyboard show, a show we’re calling “Tickling The Ivories.”

Did you know…

  • Frederic Chopin, a master at the keyboard, wrote four Ballades, freeform one-movement works. His friend Robert Schumann called the first Ballade the “best of all his compositions.”
  • Pictures At An Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky is well-known by its orchestration by Maurice Ravel, but Mussorgsky’s original was a piece for solo piano!
  • George Frederic Handel’s famous harpsichord piece “The Harmonious Blacksmith” has mysterious origins: it was either inspired by the sonorous hammers of a blacksmith, or by a tune Handel once heard a blacksmith whistling!
  • The Hammerklavier sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven was written expressly for the piano (not the harpsichord). In fact, it was written with one specific piano in mind, the six-octave Broadwood piano that he received as a gift from British piano maker Thomas Broadwood.
  • Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach wrote for both the harpsichord and the clavichord—a small keyboard instrument with metal hammers that strike the strings. Clavichords are capable of producing vibrato (by adding pressure to the keys), but they are also very quiet!
  • One of the oddest keyboard instruments is the prepared piano, as used by John Cage and others. This is essentially a regular piano, but with alterations made to it (e.g., screws, bolts, or pieces of rubber or paper added to the tops of the strings) to alter the timbre.
  • Medieval composer Francesco Landini was known for playing the “portative organ,” a small bellows organ that could fit on your lap. However, the oldest pipe organ in Italy was made about a century after Landini passed away.
  • Alicia Keys—the piano-playing queen of R&B, known for songs like “If I Ain’t Got You,” “Fallin’. is not her real name. She adopted that pseudonym at age 17 because it represented what she did best: played the “keys.”

See the full playlist below:

And don’t forget to check out our Piano Podcast for an extra trivia challenge!

Music Heard On This Episode


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