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Photographic Postcard of Woman Playing a Grand Piano with a Janko Keyboard, c. 1960's
Photographic Postcard of Woman Playing a Grand Piano with a Janko Keyboard (W. M. Cline & Co. photographer), c. 1960's, Chattanooga, Tenn..
Ah, those "Swinging 60's": How about a groovy 1960's color postcard of a woman, in 1860's period costume, playing a Steinway grand piano with a kooky keyboard? The back caption reads: "Concert Grand Piano with 'JANKO' Keyboard at the STEPHEN FOSTER MEMORIAL CARILLON TOWER, White Springs, Florida."
In 1882, Paul von Janko (1856-1919), a Hungarian musician and engineer, patented a radically-redesigned keyboard for the piano. It was Janko's contention that the horizontal layout of the standard piano keyboard was ill-suited to the limited stretch of human fingers. He also felt that having different fingering patterns for each scale was cumbersome and inefficient.
To redress these problems, Janko came up with a keyboard featuring a new type of key, one with three separate touch-points configured like a three-tiered staircase. These "three-in-one" keys are stacked in two rows, the visual effect being that the Janko keyboard appears to be a six-tiered "staircase" made up of very small narrow keys. The Janko keyboard offered pianists the ability to play the full compass of notes found in an octave (the eight tones that make up a diatonic scale) within the normal span of a player's hand, with the advantage of using one fingering pattern for all twelve scales. (It's similar in many ways to the layout of melody buttons on the modern chromatic button accordion, which first appeared in the 1870's).
The 1890's and early 1900's were the "Golden Age" of the Janko keyboard, heralded in 1891 with the founding of the short-lived Paul von Janko Conservatory in New York City. Several major piano manufacturers in Austria, Germany, and the United States built instruments with Janko keyboards. One maker, Paul Perzina, even came up with a reversible double keyboard with the standard keyboard on one side which could be flipped over to reveal a Janko layout on the other.
For all that, however, the Janko keyboard never really caught on. Very few pianists were interested in learning a whole new way of playing and there weren't enough instructors versed in the Janko system to educate a new generation of budding players. Sadly, by the dawn of the Jazz Age, the Janko keyboard had become an almost forgotten musical curiosity.
Height is 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm.), 5 1/2 in. (14 cm.) width, medium weight postcard stock, polychrome ink. Excellent Condition.
Item # 758
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All text and photographs © 2003 New York String Service
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