The Stuart & Sons Piano
Have you heard about the fabulous new Stuart & Sons piano
manufactured in Newcastle by Piano Australia? It is an instrument
that has the potential to establish a new aesthetic in piano sound.
More information can be found on the Stuart & Sons website.
There are now 25 Stuart grand pianos in existence in institutional
and private ownership. The 2.2m piano was launched at the
Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium in June 2003. CSIRO has been
there playing its part through some work that CSIRO mathematician
Bob Anderssen has been doing on the vibration of piano strings.
A major difference in the making of the Stuart piano is the
anchoring of the strings to the soundboard by a bridge agraffe
rather than the usual ziz-zag pins. Compare the two diagrams below.
This change is enough to affect the sound of the piano
significantly. The traditional horizontal zig-zag clamps cause the
initial vertical vibrations of the strings when they are struck to
quickly develop elliptic polarization and to eventually vibrate
horizontally across the face of the soundboard. The Stuart pianos'
agraffe clamps essentially prevent this tendency of the
vertical vibrations to develop elliptical polarization. Bob has
been able to establish mathematically that keeping the strings on a
piano vibrating vertically improves the harmonicity of the tones
they generate. His work has assisted in confirming that the
technology of the Stuart & Sons pianos is something very new,
special and perceptive, which represents a new musical challenge for
both composers and musicians.
The application devised by Stuart produces a tonal quality with
great clarity and sustain. In many ways there is a lesson about
intellectual property in this story. The engineering concept
predates a more advanced application driven by the ever changing
fashion in music performance and instrumental sound aesthetics. This
sets Stuart's work apart from the construction/engineering
principles established in the latter half of the 19th century used
to realise the music and sound fashion of that period - subsequently
copied in almost every detail by numerous piano manufacturers
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