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Piano : the making of a Steinway concert grand (edition 2006)

by James Barron

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1134106,831 (3.89)3
Member:librorumamans
Title:Piano : the making of a Steinway concert grand
Authors:James Barron
Info:New York : Times Books, 2006.
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:2012

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Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand by James Barron

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Very well written story of both the making of a Steinway piano and also of the company itself. ( )
  jztemple | Feb 24, 2013 |
An engaging and compelling read. The book originated in a series the author wrote for The New York Times and, as such, it is aimed at a general reader. In this era of Ikea, fast foods, and mass clothing chains, few people have any exposure to professional craftsmen -- and with one exception all the characters in this book are men.

Barron's narrative is as much about the people who work at Steinway & Sons as it is about the creation of K0862. Most ended up at the Steinway factory in a roundabout way, but once there they have remained for years. Barron is skillful at sketching them for us and showing why they are good at what they do.

A musical instrument results from a complex interplay of physics, aesthetics, and technical prowess. This interplay is glimpsed but not really examined in the book. There is, for example, no discussion of why a piano sounds different from other keyboard instruments; and certainly nothing about the challenging compromises that have been necessary to enable something that weighs more than half a tonne to sing at all. Because Barron doesn't specify the aggregate tension of the strings, for example, it's not clear from his account why the development of the cast iron plate was so important.

The restrictions of a large-circulation daily newspaper may explain the absence of technical detail, but the book would benefit, I think, from some drawings or sketches of at least the action.

Despite the lengthy development process of the text and its previous publication, there are surprising errors. One hundred thirty thousand board feet of lumber will not frame 30,000 houses, but more like eight or ten (page 88). Johann Sebastian Bach did not say, in 1776, that there is nothing remarkable about playing the piano since if you hit the right keys at the right time the instrument plays itself (page 154). By 1776 he had been in his grave for more than a quarter century, and the remark, if he made it at all, was said about the pipe organ. How could Barron, who spent more than a year inhabiting the world of the concert piano, think for a moment the comment could describe playing that instrument? And how could he, on page 157, write that as soon as the hammer strikes, the damper falls back, deadening the string?

So read this book to enjoy a story about a process, a culture, and a history. Don't pick it up to learn anything much about the piano. ( )
2 vote librorumamans | Dec 24, 2012 |
I have played piano since the age of seven and have had the pleasure of shopping for a Steinway for my place of business. This look inside the business was illuminating and entertaining. ( )
  AzureMountain | Oct 7, 2008 |
Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand is written by a New York Times reporter James Barron (who does such a splendid job on the NYT podcast Mon-Fri). Barron writes with precision, humor, and sensitivity at several levels: the history of the Steinway family, the history of a particular piano being created, the sociology and real estate history of New York over time, and about the fascinating people who perform all the tasks that create the instrument. His treatment of the workers and Steinway family members is as sensitive and caring as his treatment of the book's subject, the K0862, aka the CD-60. By the book’s end, the piano is real and engaging to the reader, leading to the suspense of its final destination and use.
  princeofpillows | Jun 5, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805078789, Hardcover)

An alluring exploration of the people and the legendary craftsmanship behind a single Steinway piano

Like no other instrument, a grand piano melds engineering feats with the magical sounds of great music: the thunder of a full-throated bass, the bright, delicate trill of the upper treble. Alone among the big piano companies, Steinway still crafts all of its pianos largely by hand, imbuing each one with the promise and burden of its brand.

In this captivating narrative, James Barron of The New York Times tells the story of one Steinway piano, from raw lumber to finished instrument. Barron follows that brand-new piano--known by its number, K0862--on its eleven-month journey through the Steinway factory, where time-honored manufacturing methods vie with modern-day industrial efficiency. He looks over the shoulders of men and women--some second- and third-generation employees, some recently arrived immigrants--who transform wood and steel into a concert grand. Together, they carry on the traditions begun more than 150 years ago by the immigrants who founded Steinway & Sons--a family that soared to prominence in the music world and, for a while, in New York City's political and economic life. Barron also explores the art and science of developing a piano's timbre and character before its first performance, when the essential question will be answered: Does K0862 live up to the Steinway legend?

From start to finish, Piano will charm and enlighten music lovers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:53 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Like no other instrument, a grand piano melds the magic of engineering with the magic of great music: the thunder of a full-throated bass, the bright, delicate trill of the upper treble. Alone among the big piano companies, Steinway & Sons still crafts all of its pianos largely by hand, imbuing each one with the promise and burden of its brand." "In this narrative, James Barron of The New York Times tells the story of one Steinway piano, from raw lumber to finished instrument. Barron follows that brand-new piano - known by its number, K0862 - on its eleven-month journey through the Steinway factory, where time-honored manufacturing methods vie with modern-day industrial efficiency. He looks over the shoulders of men and women - some second- and third-generation employees, some recently arrived immigrants - who transform wood and steel into a concert grand through a process one of the plant's managers calls "anti-manufacturing." Together, they carry on the traditions begun more than 150 years ago by the immigrants who founded Steinway & Sons - a family that soared to prominence in the music world and, for a while, in New York City's political and economic life." "Barron also explores the decades of innovations and quirks that gave birth to the concert grand piano's design, as well as the tough global competition and changing music scene that have suqeezed the piano industry. And he unmasks the art and science of developing a piano's character before its first performance, when the essential question will be answered: Does K0862 live up to the Steinway legend?" "From start to finish, Piano will charm and enlighten music lovers alike."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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