Ortmann’s work seems incredibly valuable… this was probably the most interesting chapter so far for me… I’d love to read his writings when I have some more time. I agreed with almost everything he wrote, and it’s good to see a lot of ideas supported with clear scientific data.
One thing that I am reluctant to agree with is his view on tone production… He writes that tone is only a result of the speed at which the hammer hits the string – so that the difference in tone is equivalent to the difference in dynamics, at least for any single note. Even though this may be proven and accepted as fact, I find it detrimental, in a practical sense, to how we approach playing the piano. Music must be expressive, not calculated in decibels. I would worry that if teachers do not believe differences in tone are truly possible they might try to teach students to interpret music by organizing the notes into a hierarchy of dynamics. We have to believe in “brilliant” vs. “velvety” tones on the piano – this type of interpretation will best result in achieving differences in tone color and expression. In other words, musical thought must dictate dynamics, rather than dynamics determining tonal contrast.
Ortmann also describes the differences between listeners’ reactions to music on page 440, suggesting that the visual aspect of the performer is largely responsible for often contradictory audience responses. I think the differences of opinion in judging a performance result from some people just being better judges than others, not to mention subjective preferences. People might differ in how they rate the visual aspect of someone’s playing, but still agree on the sound.