THE BLACK AND white keys move so fast it’s hard to tell if Jenny Lin is even touching them. Lin, a classical pianist known for virtuosic speed, is sitting at a grand piano in Steinway’s New York offices, as the rest of the room listens intently, focused on the keyboard.
No, she’s definitely not touching the keys. Not this time. Minutes earlier, Lin played a hyper-speed arrangement of George Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm.” The same song is playing now, except this time Lin hands are on her lap. It’s uncanny, really: The exact same keys are pressed, the exact same trills are heard, the same dynamics are present. It’s a little magical—or “almost scary” as Lin puts it—as though you’re witnessing a prodigious ghost mimic her every move.
It’s not a ghost, of course. It’s technology. Which, considering Steinway’s old-school legacy, is nearly as unlikely an explanation as a poltergeist. Lin is demonstrating the Spirio, Steinway’s newest and first self-playing piano.
When you buy a Spirio—not you, necessarily; they run upwards of $110,000—it comes with an iPad loaded with a Spotify-like app. This app communicates with the piano via Bluetooth, prompting the piano to play any one of the 1,700 songs recorded specifically for the instrument. New songs will sync every week. By itself, an iPad-controlled piano is nifty, if not exactly a technological marvel. What makes Spirio different is that it can play songs with an unprecedented level of accuracy and nuance.