The Kickstarter Blog

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  1. Creator Q&A: Michael LaPointe on his mathematical history of the piano

    The worlds of art and science are constantly colliding, but usually behind the scenes. In Appassionato: A Mathematical History of the Piano, Michael LaPointe and his team put a spotlight on these reactions, and it’s a beautiful thing! This feature-length documentary tells the story of the many failed approaches toward a unified piano tuning throughout the ages and the famous scientists, philosophers, and musicians who tried to create a “perfect” musical harmony. It’s an ode to pianos, music, and math, and below LaPointe shares some thoughts on the project. Support the project here.


    How did you get involved with this film? What was the inspiration for it?
    As a self-conscious geek in high school band, I knew of the different piano tunings through history, and even some of the scientists (Pythagoras, Galileo, Newton) who had experimented with improved piano tunings. But the inspiration for the movie came from a visit to the back room of a piano warehouse in Central California. Generally, large piano warehouses have a secluded back room, sometimes called a piano “graveyard,” where they take apart and refurbish older pianos. I was walking in this large room that smelled like saw mill and ether, and nonchalantly pressing my fingers on the keys to make awful-sounding chords, when the idea came to me: Who decides what is an awful sound and what is a proper sound?

    We have only been playing music in a specific type of tuning, listening to a minuscule amount of possible musical sounds, and missing an opportunity to listen and play music in an infinite amount of ways. I would equate it to: if we had stopped the advancement of physics in the 1950s and never explored the modern-day concepts of string theory or quantum mechanics. So, that is the main inspiration for the movie. The other inspiration is the notion that there are all these wildly successful scientists and world-renowned musicians who set out to find a “perfect” harmonious tuning for the piano, and they all failed. As a storyteller, that idea intrigues me immensely! It’s as if the piano is this unconquerable monster, a growling Godzilla, in a sci-fi or horror movie. So, the movie is basically a mix of those two concepts.       
    Are you more of a musician or a mathematician, or both?
    My grandfather was an engineer, as is my father and my brothers, so naturally I went into the arts. More so as a movie maker than a musician, but that’s the great thing about movies, you get to combine music with photography and storytelling and hopefully create something special and meaningful. That’s also a great, relevant notion that the movie will explore. As a society, I think we are slowly realizing there is no division between art and science, or music and math specifically. You need math to adjust the right amount of tension on the piano strings to make a sound; but also, if we think of mathematics as being black and white, then we would have never come up with the modern-day mathematical concepts we have today, such as Game Theory.
    What brought you to Kickstarter?
    Being a little in the indie film world, I had heard of Kickstarter; but, to be totally honest, I didn’t fully get the concept behind it until one day, as I was mentioning to a friend about the challenging piano documentary I wanted to shoot, he filled me in on it. Yes, mainly, it is a way to fund your project; but, it has many more added benefits, like a way to gauge the interest in your project. And most importantly, it’s a pathway to a like-minded community. What I mean by that is: I, as one person who lives in Los Angeles, can only really meet a certain amount of people in my life who will have the same interests as me, such as “Man, aren’t pianos just the coolest things?” However, with Kickstarter, I can find people who are fully passionate about the things I am fully passionate about. And I feel if you look back through history, it is this conjoined fueled passion that has lead to our greatest moments and achievements.
    How has your use of Kickstarter been so far? Any advice for other would-be creators?
    One concept I have embraced for this Kickstarter campaign is thinking of my Kickstarter project page as the homepage for the movie. It’s an interesting concept that I am exploring during this process. I like using my Kickstarter page as the go-to information source for the movie, because it puts emphasis on the most important stage of the movie right now: the funding stage.
    What are your plans for this film once it’s produced?
    My plans are fairly typical for a filmmaker with a new movie: taking the movie to festivals and markets to get distribution. But my fantasies? I would love to do some kind of giant party/screening with pianos from throughout history playing the score of the movie in the background. And having the most mind-numbing Q&A afterwords, where experts from art and science meet and discuss how the left-sided brains and the right-sided brains need each other more than star-crossed lovers. Also, if this could take place in some amazing outdoor venue in France or Italy…

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    I promise the movie will not be so math heavy that it gives you terribly flashbacks to high school calculus.

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  2. July 30th: Kickstarter Everywhere

    On Friday, July 30th, Kickstarter will host meet-ups in five cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Chicago. Each will be hosted by a member of the Kickstarter team: Portland will be hosted by our own Andy Baio and Lance Ivy, Chicago will be hosted by cofounder Charles Adler, San Francisco will be hosted by creator Robin Sloan, Los Angeles will be hosted by me, and New York will feature the rest of the Kickstarter crew.

    To organize these events we’re using a tool called Meetup Everywhere, which allows anyone to create an event. So if you’d like to organize your own local Kickstarter gathering that night, you can. Just visit this page to add your event (if you do you’ll also be responsible for picking a place and doing some mild organization — drop us a line if you have questions).

    The goal here is simple: people get together, have some drinks, and swap ideas and inspiration. Whether you’ve launched a project, backed a project, or are just interested in figuring out what this whole thing is about, you are more than welcome.

    We’ll be updating with specifics in the coming week, so stay tuned. If you’re interested in finding out more, hosting your own, or helping out, let us know. Thanks!

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