When asked about standing on the shoulders of a family of musical giants, composer David Serkin-Ludwig responds with a classical touch of humility and a post-modern sense of humor: “I guess I come by it honestly.”
A seventh-generation musician, Ludwig grew up listening to Steinway immortal Rudolph Serkin, his grandfather, performing to packed houses at Carnegie Hall. His uncle Peter Serkin, another renowned American classical pianist, passed away in 2020. His great-grandfather was the celebrated German/Swiss violinist and conductor Adolph Busch.
Ludwig leaned toward a career in art history but seemed destined to continue the family legacy at the Curtis Institute of Music, an All-Steinway School since its founding in 1924. Spending 20 years on the composition faculty, he served as Dean of Artistic Programs and Artistic Advisor to the President and Chair of Composition.
In May 2021, he joined The Juilliard School as Dean and Director of Music.
Steinway has remained a constant companion to Ludwig and his family for nearly a century. He was among the first critically-acclaimed composers to embrace the possibilities of Spirio | r, which measures the speed of hammers and pedals to replicate performances indistinguishable from the originals.
“The player piano achieved such an important role at the turn of the 20th century, and Spirio is this technology for the 21st century. Spirio is full of sensors and all kinds of bells and whistles that can reproduce the sound of a pianist playing to the point that you would not know if the pianist is sitting at the piano or not,” he said.
Spirio is full of sensors and all kinds of bells and whistles that can reproduce the sound of a pianist playing to the point that you would not know if the pianist is sitting at the piano or not.
The introduction of Spirio has a lot historically in common with the advent of the metronome, patented in 1815 by German inventor Johann Maelzel. “With a metronome, you could find the number of the exact tempo you wanted, and as long as someone on the other end had this device, they could determine exactly what you wanted. It’s the fundamental aspect of impulse in music,” Ludwig said.
While Mozart did not have that luxury, Ludwig said the master Austrian composer considered impulse and the ability to keep a steady beat of utmost importance and tried to instill that principle in all of his students.
With Spirio, “if you have this instrument and it exists somewhere else, you can have piano communication and be very specific about it. One of the things that COVID taught us is we can get a lot of work done remotely. You don’t have to physically transport students to teach them. As long you have Spirio and they have Spirio, you can collaborate. In a world of possibility, that is an extraordinary thing.”