Goodbye Halberstadt


The modern piano keyboard has seven white keys in a diatonic scale pattern interwoven with five black keys in a pentatonic pattern. This keyboard layout was first seen on the cathedral organ in Halberstadt, Germany, in 1361. Because of this, the formal name of this style of keyboard arrangement is the Halberstadt keyboard."
- From X.J.Scott's "Glossary of Music Tuning definitions"

The reason to present this collection of tunes is to show my skill as piano player and arranger in the environment of 12 tone equal tempered (12tET) tuning system using an "Halberstadt keyboard".

My performances have been MIDI recorded and edited to my complete satisfaction (not easy for a "control freak" like me). Sometimes using a bit of quantization (always trying to preserve a human feeling), sometimes playing with a click but without quantization, sometimes playing "rubato", sometimes adding a few notes I had missed or deleting some wrong ones, speeding up or slowing down the tempo and, in general, using all the techniques available to a seasoned MIDI engineer.
My aim isn't the presentation of a perfect (but fake) performance but to give the listener the opportunity to catch a glimpse of my musical taste. Of course, on this web site it is possible to catch many other facets of my musical personality but I consider this one a very intimate one. The piano was my first tool for musical expression and my first musical "love".
My performance is far from memorable but excellent for a "nonprofessional" piano player like myself (if someone asks me which instrument I play I reluctantly reply: "the piano" and then add: "...keyboards, computers et cetera").

Nonetheless, being a "Halberstadt keyboard player" is a big part of my own identity, of my self-image (I think I have invested more time in playing/practicing the piano than in any other single activity in my entire life).

I started playing keyboards when my younger brother got a little organ for Christmas. He forgot about it in a matter of a few weeks. My parents saw that I had showed interest for it and sent me to a piano teacher (I was 16). Thanks Mom and Dad! He wasn't classically trained but was a good teacher and I learned a lot (after a few years he asked me to teach him some of those tricky jazz voicings I had learned by myself!).

I played "professionally" for a few years, pop and jazz gigs around my home town of Florence, Italy. I taught piano to beginners and intermediate students privately and in music schools. Then MIDI arrived, I attended the Music Synthesis Department at Berklee College of Music. MIDI technology freed me. I had new tools to express myself besides my keyboard skills. I had previously used multi-track tape recording technology but MIDI was a whole new ball game!

I started questioning the use of the Halberstadt music interface many years later, when I began studying tuning systems other than the ubiquitous 12tET. A soon as I started experimenting with less or more than 12 notes per "repeat ratio" (being it an octave or any other interval), the usual layout of 7 white and 5 black keys started looking more as an inconvenience than a help.

I am writing all this because I am about to jump to a new musical dimension and before leaving the beaten path I wanted to stop a moment to take a snapshot of my musical being before this technological "leap of faith". I am not saying that this coming endeavor will force me to quit playing the piano but I am trying to detach myself from this image of "piano player" that I created a long time ago, a reassuring but exhausting and incomplete image of myself.
Leaving a well-trodden path is never an easy task. I will keep you posted!