The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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The Pianocktail

January 26th, 2010 · 2 Comments

[As a postscript to “Pandora’s Music Box,” let me add this lovely imaginary instrument from Boris Vian.  It appears in his novel L’écume des jours (The Scum of the Days).  A number of artists have built plausible models of the Pianocktail; documentation can be found, here and there, on YouTube.  But let me translate the description for you, as Colin explains his invention to his friend Chick:]

— Each note, said Colin, corresponds to an alcohol, a liqueur, or an aromatic.  The loud pedal corresponds to egg whites, and the soft pedal to ice.  Seltzer requires a trill in the upper register.  Quantities are directly proportional to durations: a 64th note equals a 16th part, a quarter note one part, a whole note four parts.  When you play a slow tune, a valve is activated so that you don’t increase the amount, which would produce an overly copious cocktail, but the percentage of alcohol.  And depending on the duration of the song, you can, if you like, change the value of the part with a lateral stop; reducing it, for example, to a hundredth, so that you can produce a drink that takes all of the harmonies into account.

— It’s complicated, said Chick.

— The whole thing is controlled by electrical contacts and relays; I’ll spare you the details, you know all that.  And what’s more, the piano really works.

— Marvelous! said Chick.

— The only problem, said Colin, is the loud pedal for egg whites.  I had to put in a special gear, because if the piece is too hot, bits of omelet fall into your cocktail, and they’re hard to swallow.  I’ll fix that.  For now, you just have to be careful.  For cream, play a low G.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)


Tags: 'pataphysics · Literature · Music · Technology

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 angela // Jan 27, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Beautiful!!! There is an English translation available with the English title ” Foam of the Daze.” I may just have to pick up a copy. Thanks Doug.

  • 2 Lisa // Jan 28, 2010 at 11:01 am

    This should be the next Dewanatron project.

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