Friday Piano Solo

By Sean Carroll | February 24, 2012 10:34 am

Keith Emerson has been doing some interesting work on wave mechanics, Fourier transforms, and temporal structure. Here are some of his findings.

Not exactly what you see at the Grammy’s these days. (Not that it was back in 1974, either.)

  • Gizelle Janine

    Groovy. Science is so out of this world, man.

  • Michael Fisher

    Yes I remember that era well & I’m so pleased that punk booted these self-indulgent displays into the long grass :)

    Why does he colour-code the octaves ? [strips of colour along the back of the keyboard]

  • ppyo

    I’ll take these ‘self-indulgent displays’ over punk any day.

  • jck

    Self-indulgent? Maybe it’s just enjoyment of music and the fun of exploration. Oh, and actually knowing how to play an instrument.

  • Benjamin

    QUITE impressive. Thanks, Sean!

  • Kerry Maxwell

    I was a huge Nice and ELP fan when I was in my teens. Loved a lot of this stuff, but once I heard Art Tatum, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Monk , Cecil Taylor, Paul and Carla Bley, it all seemed at bit wanky. And then I heard Sun Ra, and realized life is way too short to listen to this quaint shit. I love prog, but if you are serious about piano, you are wasting your time with this stuff.

  • Phil Seymour


    There are so many changes that occur in the sphere of reality surrounding musical creation, production, and reproduction, that one could apply nearly all disciplines and specialties of scientific study. There are many similar effects that can occur, no matter what the instrument, or type of music, and still more specific changes based on harmonies, rhythms, frequencies, and a host of other variables. Then there is the whole other world of difference between what one feels as a player, and what one feels as a listener.

    Thanks again for reminding me of all the sciences that are involved in this fun stuff that we call music.

  • Anon8

    In the 70s opposing criticssaid that ELP was “self-indulgent” and “bombastic.” But that would mean that many classical composers, Mozart notwithstanding, were self-indulgent and bombastic too. Playing a piano solo is self-indulgent? Lol. I’ve always thought the oft-blind repetition of “self-indulgent” of certain “progressive” rock bands pretty thoughtless. Eh, it’s taste. Now I’ll go listen to some bombastic orchestral pieces created by Deep Purple.

    Kerry Maxwell, you say this is “quaint” and if one is serious about piano you are wasting your time. I’m going to go off and listen to Rick Wakeman’s keyboards too since I’m serious about piano. Keith Jarrett too. And of course the musicians you mentioned. (:

  • Henry Holland

    Ah, my favorite band, near their peak. Too bad a full-0n Brain Salad Surgery show with the curtains and video screen and all that was never filmed.

    And then I heard Sun Ra, and realized life is way too short to listen to this quaint shit

    Well, compared to any classical pianist that’s touring professionally, all those people you mentioned are mostly just doing chords with their left hand and scales with their right within banal harmonic formats that are easy to improvise around.

    Let’s see Cecil Taylor play *that*.

  • Casey

    The first 2 minutes sounds a lot like the Gulda’s Prelude and Fugue:

  • Jimbo

    When I was an undergrad at Florida, in `74, a cursory spin of the FM dial would bring up either ELP (Emerson’s Band) or YES, driven by the guitar genius of Steve Howe & synthesizer virtuoso Rick Wakeman. One doobie later, & we would be surfing with these aliens, which remind us that we are all merely human, & They have transcended that long ago.
    Emerson is reported to be able to play a time-reversal of one of Bach’s compositions….

  • G

    As much as I loved ELP and the Nice growing up, I prefer stuff like this now:

    or even this:


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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