What is a Zenph Re-performance?

A re-performance is a description of what a musician would have done to make the sounds you hear.  How was a string plucked, a key pressed, a cymbal brushed, or a trumpet note blown?  For example, think what’s involved with playing one piano note.  You need to know the note itself (its pitch), when it was pressed, how it was pressed (its force and touch), how long it was held down, how it was released, where the pedals were, and so on.  Each of these can be measured precisely to form a full description of how the musician originally played.

Picture all of these numbers in a giant spreadsheet.  In the Rhapsody in Blue, Gershwin plays about 10,000 piano notes.  Each of these 10,000 notes can be represented as a row in the spreadsheet, one row for each note.  The measurements for each note (the pitch, the start time, the release, and so on) are each a column in the spreadsheet, so there are about a dozen columns for each note.  The piano part in the Rhapsody looks like a tall, skinny spreadsheet with a dozen columns and 10,000 rows.

Zenph’s team has developed a process for working backwards, from an original audio recording to a detailed description of how every note was played.  Every nuance of touch needs to be understood, and there are millions of ways a pianist touches a note.  Timings are made to the microsecond.  A re-performance comprises the spreadsheet that represents a song.  But, it still needs to be heard.

Every instrument is slightly different from one another, and the re-performance must be precisely mapped to a particular instrument to sound as it should.  The felt in each hammer in a piano must accommodate Zenph’s thousand levels of dynamics – and all of those levels must be compared against Zenph’s reference piano.  This mapping must be done across all 88 hammers – and musical instruments never behave in a “straight line.”  A bass note coded with force “500” sounds much louder than a treble note coded at “500,” so every hammer must be separately mapped for every note that’s played.

The tasks required in preparing the piano exceed simple tuning.  The keys, hammers, and pedals have been exactingly regulated, voiced, calibrated, and mapped, far beyond factory expectations.  This is Zenph’s commitment, all in the service of assuring you hear a re-performance that’s utterly authentic to how George Gershwin originally played 80+ years ago.

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