K-Chuck Radio: The World of the Black MIDI

I stumbled across these videos the other day, and after about three hours of watching them (and essentially distracting myself for a good three hours), I felt like sharing this in today’s blog.

There are these devices called player pianos, in which you hook up a perforated roll of paper to a piano and the piano plays whatever’s on the roll.  They were popular generations ago, and there are some units still around today – for example, you can find a player piano in the first season of the TV series Westworld.

That being said, there’s a new type of player piano, an online version called the Black MIDI. In the Black MIDI, notes and colors cascade down the screen, and as each note hits a digitally generated piano keyboard, you get piano notes.  These videos are also known as synesthesia videos, in which you essentially see the sounds.

Here’s an example.  This is what Smash Mouth’s song “All Star” sounds like in a Black MIDI video.

Yeah, I know, it looks like a hyped-up version of the old Guitar Hero video game, but it is kinda hypnotic in and of itself.

Now some people have challenged themselves to create Black MIDI videos that encompass millions of notes.  Now on this one, someone found a way to incorporate over two million notes into Queen’s seminal “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Meanwhile, another person took Edvard Greig’s Peer Gynt soundtrack “In the Hall of the Mountain King” and gave it the Black MIDI treatment.

Some people demonstrate their proficiency in Black MIDI by starting off with an easy version of a song, and then cranking up the difficulty to something bordering a hyped-up Rachmaninoff.

In addition to the hypnotic visuals that these videos possess, they also contain a bit of snarkiness.  Example – this YouTuber demonstrated his Black MIDI skills by showing the different levels of expertise in playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

I mean, watching these videos is mesmerising.  And you can see that these keyboardists are taking no prisoners.  Such as this one from a YouTuber named Rousseau.

Now, not every Black MIDI video is an exercise in “can you top this.”  With some videos, you can actually see what goes into the fingering on a piano keyboard – the rolls and riffs and the like – without having to stare over the keyboardist’s fingertips.  Such as the work completed for this super-cool version of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

And yes, there’s a Black MIDI video available for the biggest classical music war chestnut of all time, Pachalbel’s Canon in D.  This guy decided to do a “n00b v expert” performance, so brace yourself.

But for now, I’m going to end this Black MIDI excursion with a performance of arguably the most emotional classical piece ever produced, Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.”

Yes, we play everything here on K-Chuck Radio.  You should expect no less.