[f_minor] The Haptic & The Tactile [was:] Re: book

Robert Merkin bobmerk at earthlink.net
Mon Jun 28 13:35:09 EDT 2010

Touch doesn't get nearly the respect and attention it deserves; almost everybody takes it for granted.

Electronic Gizmo Guys & Gals of the Old School used to scour their fingerpads with sandpaper to enhance their touch sensitivity, for turning knobs ever so slightly -- trying to tune in a hard-to-get Short Wave station. (These days, all the "vernier" -- teeny-tiny -- adjustments are done by digital computer arithmetic, so 0.000000005 is as easy to ask for as 0.5)

But obviously a fine keyboardist is going to pay a lot of attention to his/her sense of touch, and grow more and more conscious and observant of its nuances.

Once I was offstage next to a very talented pianist about to perform, and she was very anxious and unhappy because her hands were cold. I offered to warm them in mine, and she eagerly let me. It's now clear how much keyboardists depend on tactile feedback -- all sorts of information from their fingertips -- to play well, and depend on tricks like sandpaper -- or a Hand-Warming Boy -- to play at their best. GG also perceived that he was plagued by chilly hands.

The Oriental board game Go uses a square wooden board, and players place stones -- small disks -- on the intersections of the 19 x 19 rectangular lines.

The board can cost $50,000 (or, if you prefer, $50), and the most desired stones are polished slate (black stones) and polished mother-of-pearl (white stones).

Players love the distinctive KLIK sound of stone placed on board, but they also love the fingertip feel of placing the stone on the board. (If you close your eyes, a big Go tournament sounds like a knitting convention.) Go is harder to master than chess, and has sensory dimensions chess lacks.

There's the exquisite mosaic beauty of the stone pattern of a completed game -- some players say they often turn their backs on winning to concentrate on cooperating with their opponent to create a beautiful stone pattern, without a word exchanged -- there's the hypnotic, reassuring KLIK sound, and the lovely, satisfying tactile moment of placing each stone.

My philosophy professor shared bits of his specialty, Medieval philosophy, and taught us why the palm of each hand has a big M on it. Our hands are the instruments of almost every Sin we might be contemplating. As we reach toward every Sin, we read one final warning from God: Momento Mori -- Remember That You Will Die (and be judged for your Sins).

Hope all are having a great Summer (or, in the Antipodes, Winter), with lots of Haptic Fun. If ya know of any great live performances upcoming in North America, give a shoutout.


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: velfred at sbcglobal.net 
  To: Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. 
  Sent: Monday, June 28, 2010 12:33 PM
  Subject: Re: [f_minor] book

        Thank you very much for the explnation.

        --- On Mon, 6/28/10, michael macelletti <mmacelletti at sbcglobal.net> wrote:

          From: michael macelletti <mmacelletti at sbcglobal.net>
          Subject: Re: [f_minor] book
          To: "Robert Merkin" <bobmerk at earthlink.net>, "Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould." <f_minor at glenngould.org>, "gail paynter" <gmadoodat at hotmail.com>
          Date: Monday, June 28, 2010, 7:53 AM

          sorry  about getting a little excited about the word haptic, but it does seem to provide the missing term which describes the type of memory which most pianists use. ( and often with disastrous results ! )     and i'm happy to say, bob, that mr webster would totally agree with you is his fine book. no difference to him either.  but , if i might be excused for a little personal interpretation,  there may be a great difference. the term tactile seems to have been sullied by previous use, it's connection with the " feel " of , say, a fabric or  smooth piano keys. ( providing they aren't worn ivories ! ).    haptic, on the other hand, happily ( sorry about that ) because of it's lack of familiarity, can easily make the bridge between touch and mind to my way of thinking.          it even sounds psychological !            i mentioned the disaster that can result in using this type of memory for a  concert. it's always a temptation to rely upon  it because most pianists will find that they can play a sonata without music ( and without mind !! ) in just a few months. then they try to play it for a jury exam or recital, they start to  " think " about the connections, and lo and behold, all is lost.  their hand memory, or haptic memory was an illusion.  and they slink away in disgrace. 
          i have a feeling that gg relied upon this type of memory to a certain extent, in addition to his using great additional analytical skills. this might explain his shaking in bed on the afternoon before a evening concert. ( i mean, there are rather more than a few unnatural memory spots in the goldberg, as anybody would admit who plays it )   it might also explain why he used the loud  vacuum cleaner to distract his mind temporally  so that he could get through the ascending sixths passage in the  last movement ( var 5 ) of  op 109. ( when suddenly, one day,  he couldn't play it ! )
          well, just a little digression on a day when it's honestly too hot in connecticut to do anything but think and then bother the f minors.   stay cool if you happen to be on the unfortunate side of the equator.     

          From: Robert Merkin <bobmerk at earthlink.net>
          To: Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. <f_minor at glenngould.org>
          Sent: Sun, June 27, 2010 11:39:10 PM
          Subject: Re: [f_minor] book

          Thanks for the cool new word! But ... how does "haptic" differ from "tactile"?


            ----- Original Message ----- 
            From: michael macelletti 
            To: f_minor at glenngould.org ; gail paynter 
            Sent: Sunday, June 27, 2010 9:30 PM
            Subject: [f_minor] book

            a  " must have " book for all gouldians :    " BRAVO FORTISSIMO " GLENN GOULD , THE MIND OF A CANADIAN VIRTUOSO ,   by helen mesaros.  and , believe  me, i've got them all.  this volume is  a veritable treasury of minutiae. i.e. where and when did he practice on the nassau trip. ( and who was there to witness it. ) , where was he when his teacher died, what bothered him the most about retirement. the word, haptic ( i never saw it before! ) and the beethoven 5.   enjoy! 


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