The widely held concept of both the traditional piano lesson and the live concert—where teacher and student, or performer and audience share the same space, geographically bound—is forever being redefined, thanks to remarkable new technology from Yamaha. Yamaha, the world’s largest musical instrument manufacturer, is on the fast track to develop innovative new distance learning and remote performance applications for its Disklavier piano, first introduced 25 years ago.
The Disklavier is a special acoustic piano fitted with a sophisticated system of sensors that record every aspect of a performance, including pitch, dynamics, phrasing and pedaling. The performance information can be stored on a hard drive and recalled for a later performance.
But what makes the Disklavier even more remarkable today is that, like personal computers, current models can be connected to one another via the Internet. Once connected, the performance information can be transmitted from one instrument to the others – and be immediately reproduced with perfect precision, even on the other side of the globe.
Yamaha pioneered this “distance” technology in 2007 with the introduction of RemoteLesson, which provides for networking of up to four similarly equipped pianos, enabling a teacher to conduct lessons with students over the Internet. With RemoteLesson, participants can video chat while playing their respective instruments, magically making the keys and pedals move up and down on the distant piano to recreate their performance, even though teacher and student may be thousands of miles apart.
Encouraged by the early success of this technology, the company went even deeper, and in 2011, launched DisklavierTV™, powered by RemoteLive ™ Technology.
While similar to RemoteLesson, DisklavierTV provides the opportunity to broadcast a musical performance from one Disklavier to many pianos simultaneously, sending a combination of MIDI, video and audio data.
At the launch of DisklavierTV, artist Roberta Flack played a Disklavier piano and sang at the Yamaha Piano Salon in New York City, while her music could be heard in real time a continent away in Anaheim, California over Internet-connected Disklavier DCFX and Bosendorfer 200DE3 performance reproducing pianos.
In 2012, the Music Technology Center at The Juilliard School, in collaboration with Yamaha Corporation of America, redefined the live concert experience with Beyond the Machine: 12.1 Synchroneity - A Festival of Electro-Acoustic and Intermedia Art. This groundbreaking presentation linked three pianists on two continents and three time zones, via the Internet, in a single, remarkable, live musical performance.
Juilliard pianist Allegra Chapman performed in New York City on an acclaimed Yamaha CFX concert grand piano and was joined by Pianist Luna Inaba in Kakegawa, Japan and Pianist Hojoon Kim in Buena Park, California, both playing Yamaha Disklavier performance-reproducing pianos.
“We wanted to explore whether we could evoke an authentic sense of ‘ensemble’ and artistic unity by joining performers from different parts of the globe with new technology, such as RemoteLive,” said Edward Bilous, artistic director for Beyond the Machine and founding director of the Music Technology Center at The Juilliard School. “This production’s success fulfilled our goals of expanding the concert experience, pushing the boundaries of the performing arts and, ultimately, making the world a little smaller.”
In 2013, Yamaha undertook its most ambitious DisklavierTV project to date: Yamaha’s 125th Anniversary Dealer Concert featuring Elton John performing with a 60-piece orchestra.
The marquee performer of our generation played five songs on a Yamaha Disklavier reproducing piano onstage with the orchestra, which was streamed live over the Internet simultaneously to remote Disklavier pianos in Japan, Korea, Australia, Russia, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States. His actual piano keystrokes were faithfully played, note for note, in real time (via MIDI data) on each of the remote instruments just as if he were there, while the entire orchestra was seen and heard on adjacent monitors in perfect sync with the remote piano performances.
Yamaha believes that the implications for its remote technology with students, entertainers and fans are huge. Master teachers can lead classes for students regardless of their location, while top-notch entertainers can give private concerts for fans.
“Networked pianos can open up a whole new world of performance possibilities that are not constrained by geography,” said Jim Levesque of Yamaha. “Yamaha’s Disklavier technology is branching out in new ways that will change how students learn and how entertainment is delivered. And we’re only scratching the surface of its full potential.”