The piano tuner arrived yesterday and tuned up my spinet and fixed a bunch of unresponsive keys. He did it by adding oil to the felt surrounding the tiny brass pins that the hammers pivot upon. The culprit, he said, was simply age. In a 40 year old piano (mine was built in 1968), the felt hardens and begins to add resistance to the motion of the pin, causing an unresponsive action. The keyboard now feels springier and livelier than before. And now it's in tune - a major improvement!
Still, this is no Steinway Concert Grand I've got here. I can hear some oddities... for one thing, there's a clicking in the middle keys caused, I think, by the fact that the large wooden piece that holds the keys down isn't screwed in enough. (When I press it so the felt engages better the clicking goes away.) Well. It's a starter piano I got for $200 with a $120 tuning. You can barely buy a decent electronic keyboard for that. And if and when I get better I shall have my eyes on a better instrument; an upright or a small horizontal model.
Naturally I asked the tuner a bunch of questions while I observed him at work - I'm surprised he didn't charge me more. He said that the strings appeared to be holding tension okay... it was quite a bit flat to start with so he tuned it a bit sharp. What happens is that with atmospheric changes the tuning will flatten out some, so the result ought to be about right, near concert pitch.
Speaking of wood, he told me that Kawai has developed a piano action using composites - plastics - which are more resistant to humidity and temperature changes. They call it the Millenium III action. An interesting article is here. Wow... carbon fiber piano actions... the same stuff they use in the supercars shown on Top Gear!
I noticed that he also adjusted the strings in the very same way my bass teacher taught me to tune a bass: You tune past the correct pitch, then come down to it. A consideration of where metal wire is wrapped around a metal pivot - mechanical hysteresis, perhaps.
Warning! Movie chat with spoilers follows!
When I was a kid there were two celebrated movies about kids that my parents thought highly of: "The Boy with the Green Hair" (1948) and "The Bad Seed" (1955). That is, they used to talk about them from time to time as films I might find interesting. Naturally I became intrigued. The first one - the kid with the hair - I saw some years ago when I got my membership with Video Vault; I thought it was a rather silly, disappointing film. I'll give away the ending: his hair becomes green as a sort of an anti-war protest. That's right... green hair. Get it? Green hair? Anti-war? Neither did I. An easily dismissed work.
The second film I finally got around to seeing last night. There was a stage production of it in my high school; my yearbook has stills from it, so I was always somewhat curious as to what this work was about.
I was immediately struck by how stagey the 1956 movie seemed, a filmed theatre production rather than a film. But what really impressed me was how totally implausible the storyline was. Sure, murderous eight year-olds. History is full of them, yep, very common. All around us. Evil kids from tainted parents. (The mother discovers that she was adopted and is in reality the daughter of a murderess, which, of course, gets passed on to her child.) Puleeze. This positively reeks of the fashionable Freudian psychotherapy of the era.
Anyway, this film was also a disappontment, but has received a kind of cult status due to the oddness of the subject matter. ("Directors don't make cult films. The audience does." - Roger Corman.) That's an image of Patty McCormack above - a bizarre studio publicity shot where the photographer apparently told Patty, "Make a face!"
I am now reading "Manhunt" by James L. Swanson. It's about the Lincoln assasination and the pursuit of John Wilkes Booth. It was given to me by and old friend who is now apparently obsessed with the event. In like manner, when we were teenagers, she was consumed with the life and times of Alexander Hamilton, Cardinal Richelieu, Napoleon Bonaparte, actor Stewart Granger and rolly derby star Ronnie "Psycho" Rains.
She was certainly an interesting girl to be around, that's for sure...
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