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Critic's Notebook

Ghosts in the machine

In digital ‘re-performances,’ what do we hear?

By Jeremy Eichler
Globe Staff / December 11, 2011
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Zenph, a North Carolina-based company, has pioneered a wizardly technology of “re-performances.’’ Zenph analyzes all the attributes of old piano recordings, processes them, and then plays them back on digitally equipped modern pianos, both for live performances and new recordings. No need to listen through loud hiss and surface noise, the company proclaims. Rachmaninoff need not sound as if he were playing through the telephone from mother Russia. Zenph says its re-performances let listeners feel “as if he or she were there when the original recording was made.’’ It’s a seductive fantasy, yet also an unsettling one.

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