Elyakim Taussig: Playing without hands

July 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm

written by Victoria Warfield, July 22, 2012

Peter Elyakim Taussig was born in 1944, in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.  He grew up in Israel where he studied with Czech pianist, Edith Kraus – a student of Artur Schnabel. Taussig moved to Canada in 1968 and earned his Masters degree at the University of Toronto studying with Anton Kuerti.  Over the next decade, Taussig recorded over 200 chamber music broadcasts for the CBC.

Influenced by the late Glenn Gould’s fascination with technology, Taussig became involved in the emerging computer music technology in the 1980s.  He developed a new computer based piano method –  PianoKids. It is a comprehensive teaching method for young children to acquire the rudiments of music literacy and composition with computers. In 2007, PianoKids introduced an expansion to its musical training that incorporated mathematics as part of each piano class.

In 1996 he was diagnosed with severe carpal tunnel syndrome, coupled with Osteoarthritis in his right hand which prevented him from performing music. He was introduced and championed the development of Yamaha’s ‘Musical Sculpting’ software using the Disklavier PRO, a MIDI-capable nine-foot concert grand, which allowed Taussig to record with his left hand and a computer mouse.  This application now allows handicapped pianists to record with minimal use of their fingers.

Since 2009 Taussig has devoted himself exclusively to composition and writing. In the course of short three years he has written an opera (Fibonacci), and oratorio (Eve of Life), a symphony, and four concertos.

One of the things I love best about Taussig is that he has such a talent for combining wonderful musicianship and comedy.  He boasts of his world record for playing “The Minute Waltz” in 40 seconds.  His best known performance work is the satirical piano recital “Taussig and Enemies”, with which he toured small town Canada for several years in the 1980s.