Tone production on the piano: the research of Otto Rudolph Ortmann
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The purpose of this treatise is to discuss tone production on the piano, specifically focusing on the research of Otto Rudolph Ortmann, whose work marked a turning point in the history of piano pedagogy and set a new standard for piano-related scholarship. Writing in the early twentieth century, Ortmann, who was both an accomplished pianist and an avid scientist, was one of the first to consciously and meticulously combine the two fields. Today, Ortmann's books are mostly out of print and his research is little known by the average piano student or teacher. However, Ortmann's books greatly affected and influenced many of his contemporaries, and no matter how neglected today, they contain a wealth of information and practical advice highly relevant to any serious pianist. While his research spans a range of topics, including the science of piano acoustics, experiments and scientific explanations of piano technique, and even music education, his work focusing on piano tone production was perhaps the most controversial. In this treatise, Ortmann's concepts, experiments, and conclusions related to tone production will be discussed. Certain scientific elements related to tone production, such as the acoustics of sound, the mechanism of the piano, and the relevant aspects of basic physics, will serve as an introduction to this discussion. A historical overview of the pedagogical trends surrounding the subject will show how Ortmann's work has been sometimes overlooked and often misinterpreted. A thorough analysis of Ortmann's research will demonstrate its balanced approach and its indispensable relevance to the modern pianist and pedagogue. Finally, his work will be used as a vantage point to shed light on subsequent trends of piano pedagogy and to ask questions about the role of tone production in modern pianism.