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PIANO TIMELINE

Evolution Of The Instrument

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Ancient Times

A cave painting in Magura cave.
Cave Paintings, Magura Cave. 1

Early man discovered at some point that stretching a string between two points produced a sound, and that by shortening the length or thickness of the string changed its pitch. Later, adding parallel strings together created a rudimentary harp.

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[1]
MarieBrizard.  "Cave Paintings, Magura Cave."  Photograph.  Flickr. Flickr, a Yahoo Company, 6 Sept. 2006.  Web.  13 Oct. 2015.  CC BY 2.0.

C. 3rd Millennium BCE, Harp

A painting of an early harpist before the common era.
The God Ra-Horakhty and Harpist. 1

The harp appeared throughout the Middle East and Egypt, and moved widely across the world, in both vertical and horizontal modes. Considered to be the first stringed instrument, the speaking length of its various strings created a harmonic curve that would dictate the shape of the piano’s frame.

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[1]
Pergien.  "The God Ra-Horakhty."  Painting.  Original in the Louvre, Paris.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 6 April 2007.  Web.  5 Oct. 2015.  Public Domain.
Additional References:
  • Lawergren, Bo.  "Ancient Harps."  Oxford Music Online.  Oxford University Press, 2007 – 2015.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.

C. 2650 BCE, Guqin

Guqin, an early Chinese stringed instrument.
Guqin Lingfeng Shenyun. 1

The ‘qin,’ and 'se,' were stringed instruments created by Fu Xi, known in Chinese mythology as the first of the ancient sages. Modern instruments have seven strings and a range of four octaves. Literature concerning the lore, its theory, and general literature dates back nearly 3,000 years.

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Guqin Performance 'Lament of Departure,' played by Yuan Jung-Ping. 2
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Flowing Waters, performed by guqin master Pui-Yuen Lui. 3

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[1]
CharlieHuang.  "A Picture of a Guqin Lingfeng Shenyun in the Zhongni Form."  Photograph.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 19 May 2006.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.  GFDL, and CC BY-SA 3.0.
[2]
henryshoots.  "‪Guqin 古琴 Yuan Jung-Ping Lament of Departure on Guqin, 長亭怨慢 袁中平演奏."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 19 Feb. 2010.  Web.  16 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
[3]
luna788.  "'古琴演奏家呂培原"流水' Guqin Master Pui-Yuen Lui ‘Flowing Waters."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 7 May 2009.  Web.  16 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
Additional References:
  • Lewis, Mark Edwards.  Writing and Authority in Early China.  New York: SUNY Press, 1999.  Google Books.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.
  • “Guqin.”  New World Encyclopedia.  New World Encyclopedia, 30 Jan 2014.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.
  • “SE.”  Cultural China.  Shanghai News, Press Bureau and Shanghai Xinhong Cultural Development Co., Ltd., n.d.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.

C. 2500 BCE, Lyre

The queen’s lyre and silver lyre from the Royal Cemetery at UR, Southern Mesopotamia, Iraq.
The Queen's Lyre (left) and The Silver Lyre (right), Royal Cemetery at Ur, British Museum. 1

The lyre, a yoked instrument with strings running from a single point at the base of a resonating body to a crossbar, plucked by fingers or plectrum. Formally associated with the Greeks and the myth of Hermes (who was said to have fashioned it from a tortoise shell) but having antecedents in Egypt (with its origin attributed to Thoth), as well as variants from the East and across the globe.

The lyres of Ur, excavated from an old grave in the city of Ur, 1929, are three of the oldest examples of the instrument.

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Reconstructed Trossingen Lyre, performed by Corwen Broch. 2
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The Sumerian Silver Lyre. 3

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[1]
Amin, Osama Shukir Muhammed.  "The Queen’s Lyre and Silver Lyre from the Royal Cemetery at UR, Southern Mesopotamia, Iraq."  Photograph.  Original in the British Museum, London.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 8 Aug. 2015.  Web.  5 Oct. 2015.  CC BY-SA 4.0
[2]
KateCorwen.  "Trossingen Lyre (6th Century Germanic Lyre)."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 16 Oct. 2010.  Web.  16 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
[3]
Pringle, Peter.  "The Sumerian Silver Lyre."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 6 June 2013.  Web.  16 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.

C. 5th Century BCE, Monochord

Illustration of a monochord drawn by Robert Fludd, 1624.
Sonification of World Order with a Monochord by Robert Fludd, 1624. 1

The monochord, a primitive, single-stringed scientific instrument, attributed to Pythagoras, used as a way of teaching harmonics, measuring musical intervals, tuning scales and encouraging experimentation. It is thought that Pythagoras used the monochord to delineate the three Western Scales (diatonic, chromatic, and enharmonic), illustrating how numerical ratios could be visualized with sound. The single string was typically plucked, though later developments would offer other variations, including the use of a bow. The introduction of a sound box to enhance the lower-frequency response of the single string led to the invention of the soundboard.

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Dan Bao Monochord Improvisation, performed by Phong Nguyen. 2

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[1]
Rötel, Kaspar (Drucker).  Divine Monochord.  1617 – 1621.  Fludd, Robert.  Utriusque Cosmi Maioris Scilicet et Minoris Metaphysica, Physica atque Technica Historia Oppeinheim: Theodore de Bry.  (Collection Centre Candien d’Architecture, Montreal)  Gutenberg-E.Org.  Web.  13 Oct. 2015.  Public Domain.
[2]
Brink, Wayne.  “Dan Bao Improvisation, Three Rivers One Source.”  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 29 Nov. 2013.  Web.  14 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.

3rd Century BCE, Hydraulus

Illustration of a working reproduction of the hydraulus.
Working Reproduction of the Hydraulus. 2

The concept of a keyboard most likely originated in the 3rd century B.C.E. with the earliest incarnation of the organ, the hydraulus. To manipulate the sound, players manipulated hinged or pivoted levers, pressing downward to open up the passage of air to various pipes.

By the Middle Ages, the mechanical action was typically reversed, in the form of a slider or turn-key pulled outward to sound notes. Not until the portable organ, and then the organistrum, would the concept evolve into a formal keyboard.

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Reproduction of a Roman Hydraulus, performed by Alexander Henshaw. 2

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[1]
Unknown Artist.  Working Reproduction of the Hydraulus.  1911.  Smith, Hermann.  The Making of Sound in the Organ and in the Orchestra: An Analysis of the Work of the Air in the Speaking Organ Pipe of the Various Constant Types, and an Exposition of the Theory of the Air-Stream-Reed, Based Upon the Discovery of the Tone of the Air, by Means of Displacement Rods.  New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1911: pg. 337, Fig. 26.  Google Books.  Web.  5 Oct. 2015.  Public Domain.
[2]
Freia Turland Photography.  "Roman Replica Hydraulus at the Roman Baths."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 5 Aug. 2014.  Web.  14 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.

800, Music Notation

Music notation first developed, a curve representing the rise and fall of pitch.

900, Portable Organ

Print of a portable organ by Friedrich Kaiser.
Paul Hoffhaimer, Renowned Imperial Organist and Composer, print by Friedrich Kaiser. 1

The portable organ, or positive organ, used initially for liturgical music and operated by two players; one working the bellows while the other designated notes manually, or by a rudimentary keyboard.

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[1]
AndreasPraefcke.  "Paul Hoffhaimer.  Famous Imperial Organist and Composer, Born 1449, ed. By G. Grefe, Print by Friedrich Kaiser."  Illustration.  Original in the Austrian National Library, Picture Archive, Vienna. Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 20 Jan. 2011.  Web.  5 Oct. 2015.  Public Domain.

900, Psaltery

Psaltery instrument built by Salvador Bofill in 1762, at the Museu de la Música de Barcelona, Spain.
Psaltery by Salvador Bofill, Barcelona, 1762, in the Museu de la Música de Barcelona. 1

Psaltery, or psalterium, a box zither constructed of a flat resonating box with open strings spanning its surface (secured with pegs at each end). To generate sound, the player plucked the strings with fingers, or by using a plectrum (often a feather quill). Used widely in Europe until the beginning of the 16th century, its origin is rather difficult to unearth as its Greek and Latin etymology predates actual representations of any instruments.

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Psaltery Improvisation, performed by Tessey Ueno. 2

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[1]
Enfo.  "Psaltery, Salvador Bofill, Barcelona, 1762, Museu de la Música de Barcelona."  Photograph.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 21 Nov. 2013.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.  CC BY-SA 3.0.
[2]
Ueno, Tessey.  "Psaltery Improvisation (by Tessey Ueno)."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 21 Aug. 2013.  Web. 14 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.

1000, Clavier

Towards the end of the 11th century, the clavier, or key-board, would formally express itself in organs of all types.

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