We at OSV came across the name Paul de Benedictis via his work in PR with audio engineering companies. He’s a good dude, and he knows a heck of a lot about the intersection of music and technology.
It’s rare that someone well-versed in audio engineering also composes and performs music, however. Some engineers will dabble, but few are willing to take the leap and publish their own music.
If an audio engineer were to publish their own music, of course they’d be sure to have the best instruments and the best equipment. So it comes as no surprise that de Benedictis’ solo piano album “Power of One” was recorded on a hundred-year-old Blüthner Aliquot piano. Don’t know what that is? Want to find out? You’ll learn all that and more, after the jump.
Power of… TRACKLIST!
03 Power of One
07 Ides of March
08 Once Upon a Time
09 Tears of Avalon
12 Waltz for my Love
This album, Power of One (not to be confused with the book/movie of nearly the same name), was recorded and originally published in 1989. The album was then remastered and released alongside a surround-sound DVD in 2007. Paul and his associates sure know how to pack in some serious audio engineering quality.
But what about this whole “Aliquot piano” thing? I didn’t know what it meant either when I first listened to the album. But I noted some interesting and subtle reverb, particularly in the upper octaves. My ears did not betray me, as I learned from this handy-dandy Wikipedia article exactly what Aliquot pianos are all about. They are manufactured exclusively by Blüthner, and are a special kind of piano that builds in a board of strings that are *not* struck by the hammer. For those unaware: piano keys are attached to hammers which hit 3 strings (sometimes 2 strings, depending on the octave and the piano manufacturer). In the case of an Aliquot piano, the fourth string is added in the upper octaves. When the other three strings are struck by the hammer, the fourth string will naturally resonate, adding a tone that is certainly unique. Again, the difference is subtle, but definitely real.
So audio expert Paul de Benedictis has fancy recording equipment, a crazy-awesome piano from the 1800s, and he’s sporting a sweet mullet (because, hey, it’s the ’80s!). What does he decide to do with all this? Well of course, he composes and records a series of piano solo tracks and then dedicates the subsequent album to his wife. Smart man!
Paul’s skill as a composer, and as a performer? He’s somewhere on the continuum between me and Tori Amos. Granted, that’s a fairly large gap. But I point out these two individuals because of the shared style: bits of borrowed classical and romantic influence, but mostly a contemporary, pop, or new-age sound dominates. These are ballads with a chordal structure. Though piano solo, most could easily have a vocal part with lyrics added. A B A structure. You guys know what I’m talking about, right?
But I do like the album. Particularly, minor key tracks like “Hereafter” and “Someone,” or simple high-octave melodic pieces like “Lullaby,” tend to catch my attention. I could easily cut the album in half to get to my favorite parts, but it’s better digested as a whole. The track ordering lends itself to a pleasant hour-long listening experience that shouldn’t be avoided. If nothing else, I think it would make for good dinner music at a family gathering.
Later we’ll be tackling another of de Benedictis’ releases, this time a pianos/string quintet. Until then, if you’re interested in what this mystical “aliquot” piano sounds like, why not check out this simple, pleasant album (link to purchase)? Again, either a family dinner or some morning tea would be an ideal setting for listening.
Finally, a question for readers! Do you know of any sound engineers in game music that have gone on to do composition, and you’ve enjoyed said composition? I know of some too, but I’d like to hear what you have to say. Preferably, not synth engineers, but recording engineers and those that are simply well-versed in the technical side of audio engineering!Tags: Aliquot, Mullets, Paul James de Benedictis, Piano, Power of One, Reviews, Sound Engineer