"There are also broader cultural and aesthetic problems which have arisen from the piano’s dominating role. When a fretless instrument such as a violin gets introduced into a new culture, it can adapt itself to the indigenous musical language, as for example in India.

When a piano gets introduced, however, the indigenous music must conform to the piano’s tuning system. Historically, the piano has been a kind of “colonizer” in this regard. Moreover, the privileged cultural status of the piano has lent an authority to 12-ET which makes it appear superior and more legitimate than other tuning systems.

The more acclimated we are to hearing almost exclusively equal-tempered music, the more natural it sounds and the less accepting we are of alternatives. Music and instruments which use alternative systems, including non-Western music, are perceived as irrational, archaic, experimental, exotic, or just plain out-of-tune–not just different, but deviant from so-called normal 12-ET."

unless there’s some hard data to support this i highly doubt it. sure, there’s a lot less interest in mechanical pianos among the general populace of the west (and likely higher in places with rising incomes such as china), but music schools and departments i’m sure account for high enough of a portion of piano profits that china isn’t singlehandedly doing anything in this regard. after all, it’s only large institutions like schools and performance venues (and rich people) that can buy the big, full-size d steinways that cost a few hundred grand. schools also have to buy a bunch of smaller pianos for practice rooms and faculty offices. there are ofc such institutions all around the world, but so far as i’m aware the US is still on top in terms of music schools, although this is currently changing as it approaches collapse and is willing to spend less money on such programs. i think the same is true for classical music in general: universities would keep it alive to some extent regardless of popular interest, and the US is generally preeminent with the caveat that that is likely changing as well; there are plenty of top-tier conservatories in china.


I can’t remember where I read the thing about pianos – I’ll try to find it – but here are some articles about classical music in China. (I didn’t realize that the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra is actually older than the New York Philharmonic). Western media, of course, so take it with a grain of salt.



thanks for the readings! i don’t really know anything about the western music scene in china except that it’s rising, it has prestigious institutions, and that the more peoples’ material conditions improve the more likely they are to study things like music. i think it pretty well demonstrates what actual funding and smart planning can do for musical institutions, as opposed to the many dilapidated institutions of the west. the bit about higher emphasis on things like improvisation, at least in the context of orchestral members, was very interesting. i still stand by the fact that “singlehandedly” is probably a bit hyperbolic, but i could be totally wrong, and in fact i hope i am wrong haha

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