Software entrepreneur John Q. Walker uses computers to bring piano legends back to life — digitally reconstructing their performances from audio tracks and playing them on real instruments, live.

Why you should listen

Glenn Gould, Thelonious Monk, Art Tatum: legends of live piano performance lost to time. But John Q. Walker asks us to imagine hearing those great, departed musicians play again today, just as they would in person. Such is the promise of Walker's company, Zenph Studios, which builds technology to re-create live music performances. Piano tracks are converted into precise keystrokes and pedal motions -- then played back on computer-controlled grand pianos.

Before founding Zenph in 2002, Walker was a leading developer of VoIP, and was influential in the creation of the IEEE 802 local-area network (LAN) and the 802.11 wireless LAN (“Wi-Fi”) standards. He is himself a devoted pianist.

What others say

“This is a crucially important release in musical history.” — Stereophile's review of the re-performance of Art Tatum's "Piano Starts Here"

John Q. Walker’s TED talks

John Q. Walker on the TED Blog

Music

Replaying great piano performances: John Q. Walker on TED.com

August 26, 2008

Imagine hearing great, departed pianists play again today, just as they would in person. At the 2007 EG conference, John Q. Walker shows how recordings from the likes of Glenn Gould and Art Tatum can be analyzed for precise keystrokes and pedal motions, then played back on computer-controlled grand pianos. (Recorded December 2007 in Los […]

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Quotes from John Q. Walker

Our ears are hard to fool — they’re high-resolution, and they’re wired straight to our emotions, and you can’t trick them very easily.
John Q. Walker
EG 2007 • 253K views Aug 2008
Fascinating, Ingenious