Robots photo

Sight-reading complex musical notation takes years of training, hundreds or thousands of hours of practice, sitting in front of the piano, a metronome drilling its infernal clicks into your brain. Eventually you’ll gain the ability to read and perform just about any piece of music that’s set in front of you, without ever having seen it before. It does not come easily, and it is not a natural skill; you have to keep practicing to retain it. Each month you don’t practice takes two months to earn back the power you’ve squandered. It is a human achievement, a way in which we force our brains and fingers and feet and eyes to perform a task we are not born able to do.

I was classically trained in piano for about twelve years, and this stupid little gadget has immediately negated all of my hard work.

The Gocen, created by a team at the Tokyo Metropolitan University, is a scanner which can read hand-written sheet music, interpret it, and play back in real time as you wave the scanner over each bar. It can even read words like “piano” and “guitar” to distinguish between instruments, or interpret which key the piece is in, and it decides volume based on the size of the note. Here’s the little goblin in action:

Robots photo

I hereby pledge to destroy it. I will seize it from the Tokyo Metropolitan University lab and place it under my sustain pedal and I will play a Chopin Mazurka and stomp the sustain pedal at the beginning of every single bar until the Gocen is smashed into a thousand pieces. I will do this for every little six-year-old kid, his feet swinging beneath the piano bench because he is too tiny to reach the floor, straining to play “Ode to Joy,” willing his fingers to be in the right places at the right times. I will win this fight for the humans.