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Science 9 Final: Steinway, Spruce and Soundboards

Outline/Notes

Ted Talk Script

Photo Credits

Bibliography

*One small amendment I must make – at 3:14, I say “found in extensive amounts throughout the Pacific ocean”, when I should say “found in extensive amounts throughout the Pacific coast”.

 

8 Responses to Science 9 Final: Steinway, Spruce and Soundboards

  1. phia says:

    Lucas, this talk was very powerful. You show real determination and belief behind you words. I liked your use of visuals, specific information and examples such as the audio comparison. This was an I interesting topic I’ve never heard of before. Good incorporation of our previous understanding of the carbon footprint. I’m impressed!

    • lucas says:

      Thanks so much, Phia! I deliberately chose a topic that I was interested in, and I’m glad you can see that I showed passion. I’m glad that the audio comparison was powerful, as I really wanted to show how similar the Boganyi and Steinway piano are. I’m glad you learned something, and hopefully I shed some light on a not very well known topic. Special credits to Yuwen for suggesting “carbon footprint” when she edited my talk.
      Thanks for watching!
      Lucas

  2. melissa says:

    I really enjoyed listening to your ted talk Lucas! It is a great topic choice especially since we just finished our environmental science 9 unit, and this is combining two main interests among our class, music, and our environment. Your closing statement was extremely strong and a great message to leave off at. Your use of voice was excellent because it was captivating, and was the perfect ‘dressing’ to your well written ted talk. Your visuals did a great job illustrating what you were saying and enforced it even more so. I was wondering, is the Steinway company aware of the damage they are doing to our environment and what effects this could have in the future? When we brain stormed in your lesson of ways we could help, we brain stormed a lot about consumer control and public awareness so consumers could definitely do something about this problem. A picture that you used that I found effective and super interesting was the frequency response of carbon fibre vs wooden soundboards. It was simple enough to follow, but it also delivered your point very clearly, that there isn’t much of a difference between the two. It was also extremely effective when you played the two small sections of a song, one using the wooden soundboard and one using the carbon fibre soundboard. This enforced your point once again, and especially for people who learn better with auditory learning. Great job on your ted talk, it was thoroughly enjoyed!

    • lucas says:

      Thank you so much for your insightful comment, Melissa! When I was choosing my topic at the time, I didn’t realize it was so closely related to the environmental science unit, and I’m happy you were able to make that connection. It’s also good to know that the visual and auditory effects appealed to you, as well. Thanks for paying attention to my lesson too 😛

      To answer your question, I do believe that Steinway is in fact aware of the environmental harm they’re causing. The thing is, that the reason why they deliberately choose wood from this area is because it is just much higher in quality. Clear-cutting is also a much cheaper option when selectively cutting, although money doesn’t seem to be an issue (only 0.5% of logs cut end up in the soundboard of a piano when the price of a running foot of Sitka spruce was 7$ in 2001). Consumers and musicians definitely enjoy the sound of the wood too. Also, there seems to be a certain air of prejudice about using wood from old-growth forests – in a book I read, a quote that effectively sounds like “For those who are environmentally active, it seems fitting that if such old wood is cut, it deserves to end up in the soundboard of such a majestic piano.” Also, in James Barron’s book Piano, a wood inspector was quoted (I’m paraphrasing) as saying: “My contribution to the environment thing is to get as much wood out of it as possible”.

      Thanks so much for all the nice words!

      Lucas

  3. yuwen says:

    Good job Lucas! Your topic was well-chosen and was informative about a side of the piano industry I had never even thought of before. I liked your organization of information; starting from a broader topic and moving inwards. It was very easy to understand while still representing a complicated subject. I like how you took your piano passion to science and ecology!

    It’s fascinating to learn about how the Sitka spruce chosen for soundboards is preferable over other woods, and how aging and maturity straightens the veins. Considering ecological viability of a seemingly insignificant use of wood in the long run is also an admirable perspective.

    A question: has there been any blind comparisons of a Boganyi and a traditional wood soundboard piano? Would such comparison concerts do anything to sway the bigger piano manufacturers towards transitioning to other synthetic soundboard technologies?
    Thanks for the awesome TalonTalk!

    • lucas says:

      Thanks so much, Yuwen! I’m happy you learned something new, as I definitely did for sure! I made sure to fully understand the information I was ready before I started writing it, so that’s good that you could understand everything.
      It’s absolutely true as to how, over a long period of time, the continuous clear-cutting of these old-growth forests will lead to significant damage to the environment.
      Interesting question – although this has never happened (the Boganyi piano is relatively new and I don’t believe there are models of it that are for sale), a very similar and interesting study occurred with violins. The renowned Stradivarius violins, built more than 200 years ago, are supposedly better in sound and tone, according to nearly all violinists (one sold in 2007 for more than 3 million dollars!). However, a blind test showed that just 3 out of 17 professional violinists could tell the difference between a Stradivarius and a new violin. This shows that, just like the Boganyi piano, most of the reasons why newer designs haven’t become popular is because of the psychological and historical attachment that musicians have to older instruments with more organic material.
      Although I would definitely agree that comparison concerts are an interesting idea, I’m not sure it would do anything at this point to change the opinion of larger piano manufacturers. As I said in my reply to Melissa’s comment, these companies are incredibly confident of their opinion that using wood is objectively better.
      Thanks for the comment!
      Lucas
      P.S. Here’s the link to the Stradivarius study: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/05/stradivarius-violins-lose-against-new-instruments-for-the-third-time/525798/

  4. connormac says:

    I have never thought to make the connection between the musical world, environmental awareness, and science much before. You truly showed a strong understanding of what you were speaking of and that confidence made it understandable, engaging, and eye opening. I loved how you mentioned your sources to support your information. As your video is primarily about the environmental impact of the soundboards in pianos, is there alternatives to the wood used in other instruments such as guitar?

    • lucas says:

      Thank you so much! I didn’t realize there was that big of a connection either, until I started to research. Thanks so much for the kind words – I’m glad you were engaged during the talk. As a matter of fact, yes, carbon fibre composite is also an alternative to wood used in guitars. It’s seem more success than the composite soundboard in a piano, for sure.

      Lucas

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