To celebrate Yamaha’s 125th birthday, Elton John will play live on January 25th in Bangkok, Thailand; Chicago, Illinois; Moscow, Russia; Paris, France and 20 other global locations — simultaneously. No, the musician has not become a literal “Rocket Man,” nor has he made a foray into cloning, John will be using a new technology from Yamaha called RemoteLive that allows users to play pianos in remote locations without even touching the ebonies and ivories.
RemoteLive, although recently launched, has been brewing in the minds of Yamaha’s team since the ’80s.
“Back in 1987 Yamaha invented a fiberoptic technology that is encompassed in pianos called Disklavier,” says Yamaha Entertainment Group Founder Chris Gero. “It’s essentially a very fancy player piano system. It records and plays back identically the nuances of what a performer will play on the piano.”
This technology has continued to develop over the decades and now, 26 years later, Yamaha is primed to show off the latest in its Disklavier series, a player piano that features that same nuanced playback, coupled with audio accompaniment and video. John will be the first musician to give a global demonstration of RemoteLive, an event that will take place during NAMM music product show in honor of Yamaha’s birthday.
So how will the event unfold? John will be performing a private show before Yamaha dealers at Disneyland’s Hyperion Theater in Anaheim, California, along with a 70-piece orchestra and a host of other bands (including Sarah McLachlan, Chaka Khan, Jackson Browne and Earth Wind & Fire). That show will not, however, be for the Yamaha group’s eyes only: “Elton is going to be playing here in Anaheim, California, on Friday night and he will actually be playing pianos in the United Kingdom and Tokyo and Moscow and Vancouver and a bunch of other places simultaneously,” Gero says.
RemoteLive pianos will be set up in Yamaha subsidiary offices, dealer showrooms and private homes in 24 locations in 12 different countries. “What you’ll see on the other end is a piano and a video screen and audio and it will stream the show,” Gero says. “So when Elton comes out to perform, it will be Elton performing and all of a sudden the piano that’s in that room will come alive. So it’s really going to focus on the show itself.”
John — along with several participating bands — was chosen to perform at this show due to his close ties with the company and its products.
The event will also be an opportunity to show off another of Yamaha’s ventures: the brand-new record label Yamaha Entertainment Group, which Gero founded. The first band scheduled to release a record via the label, LEOGUN, is slated to perform at Friday’s show along with John.
According to LEOGUN lead singer Tommy Smith, the band first made contact with the label through Elton John himself, since both acts are managed by Rocket Music. When John heard that Yamaha was creating its own label, LEOGUN was the first band he suggested they sign.
Currently, Smith claims to be not all that tech-savvy (he carries a pocket watch and shuns smartphones), a state of affairs that he and the rest of the band might want to rectify as their relationship with Yamaha continues to grow. Who knows? In another 26 years, Yamaha might be out with an even more ambitious player piano in need of a tester.
Image courtesy of david_shankbone, Flickr