James Boyk Home
JB's usenet postings on music & audio

James Boyk: Book & Articles



To Hear Ourselves As Others Hear Us
St. Louis: MMB Music; June, 1996. ISBN 0-918812-87-9.
Order by phone from the publisher, MMB Music, (800) 543-3771. ($9.95 plus S&H; ISBN 0-918812-87-9.)

"A treasure-trove of information, advice and entertaining musical insights for both amateur and professional musicians. James Boyk's enthusiastic philosophy for musical excellence is contagious, and should be required reading for all lovers of music."—André Watts
"All how-to books should be like this one: useful, cheerful, inspirational, thought-provoking, and so complete and clear as to be more than user-friendly—indeed, user-solicitous.... Boyk has the temperament to be both mechanical and artistic, and the wisdom to see both paths in the service of the same goal."—Dr. Bradford Gowen, Piano & Keyboard.
     "Bravo for this little gem of a book. It is one that all piano teachers, students and parents should take the time to read, and then read again. The insights and advice are too many to skim through and too good to digest at only one exposure."—Dr. John Zeigler, Piano Education Page.
     "If I were giving instrument lessons, I'd buy this thing by the case. It could be the best ten bucks you or your whiz-kid will spend in a long time."—Steve Taylor, Whole Earth Review, Winter, 1997.
"I highly recommend To Hear Ourselves As Others Hear Us.... The book offers so many...pedagogically sound and cleverly presented ideas that I can only encourage you to buy it and discover for yourself its many insights into performing, practicing, teaching, and listening."—Dr. Ray Landers, American Suzuki Journal, Winter, 1999.

Books in Progress

"Know Thy Piano, published in this Web site.
      Ultra-short essays about things pianists should know about the piano in order to play better.

"A Musician's ABC's, published in this web site.

Ten Thousand Days: A Pianist at Caltech


"Keys to Success," New West, October 24, 1977. Includes How To Buy a Piano and What I Learned From Writing This Article.

Called "the best statement of the philosophy of music education we've ever seen" by the Music Education Division of Yamaha International, which distributed 11,000 reprints. Nominally about how to choose a music teacher; actually much broader.

"The Perfectly Complete, Completely Perfect, Thinking Person's Guide to Stereos," New West, Sept. 11, 1978.

Feature article on choosing stereo equipment by critical listening. How to "add up virtues" to draw valid conclusions about sound quality in uncontrolled environments. Pitfalls of the retail audio scene. Finalist in the National Magazine Awards.

"The Music Goes Round and Round and It Comes Out Here," New West, Jan. 1, 1979.

Short introduction to technology of recording and playback.

"Tuning the ill-tempered clavier" (letter) Am. J. Phys., 47(5), May 1979, pages 475-475.]

A concert grand piano is not merely a bigger version of a baby grand. Rather, it is the one and only piano whose size is determined by acoustic, mechanical and materials engineering reality alone. It is the ideal size piano. When one plays a concert grand and then changes to any other size instrument, the difference is striking. I feel that the word piano should be reserved for the concert grand, and some other word should be invented for small grands & vertical pianos. Perhaps pianette would do.

"Oldies But Goodies," New West, Aug. 13, 1979.

Hi-fi equipment that has passed the tests of time and the market.

"The Cartridge Family," New West, Oct. 22, 1979.

Review of five phonograph cartridges.

"The Ear of the Beholder," New West, July 14, 1980.

The idea of beauty as a concrete aid in judging audio equipment.

Program Notes for album "Boyk plays Schumann & Chopin," of Schumann's 'Scenes from Childhood,' Opus 15, and Chopin's Fantasy in F Minor, Opus 49, Performance Recordings® pr2, 1980.

"The Music Lover's Quick But Accurate Guide to Stereo," The Next Whole Earth Catalog, 2nd edition, 1981.

"The Music of Sound," guest editorial in The Audio Amateur, issue 5, 1982. Reprinted in Hi-Fi News & Record Review (England), Sept. 1985.

The sound itself is part of the meaning of the music.

Program Notes for album "Boyk Plays Prokofiev," of the Sixth Piano Sonata, Opus 82, Performance Recordings® pr3, 1982.

"Rules of the Game," Hi-Fi News & Record Review (England), Jan., 1983.

On evaluating audio equipment: "The danger in evaluating a new technology is that the old technology has shaped our perception. If Old defects are corrected in the New, we will notice that fact vividly. What we may miss is the presence of New defects for which we have no established perceptual categories."

C. Minor, M. Todorovich, J. Boyk, G. P. Moore, "A Computer-Based Keyboard Monitor for Studying Timing Performance in Pianists" in Timing and Time Perception, J. Gibbon and L. Allen, eds. Annals of New York Academy of Science 1984; 423, 651.

Work by Prof. Moore of USC with Minor and Todorovich, students in Boyk's Caltech course "Projects in Music & Science."

"Controversy I: The Digital Wars," in The Absolute Sound, Summer, 1984.

A letter with inside information.

"Comment," guest editorial, Hi-Fi News & Record Review (England), Dec., 1984.

Of restaurants, view cameras, coffee and listening tests of audio equipment.

Program Notes for Boyk album of Debussy's Reflections in the Water, Stravinsky's Sonata (1924), Schoenberg's Six Little Piano Pieces, Opus 19, and Ravel's Sonatina; Performance Recordings® pr4, 1984.

"Dynamic Inflection and the Beauty of Live Music," Hi-Fi News & Record Review (England), June, 1985.

Introducing a new term for equipment evaluations.

"On Both Sides of the Microphone," The Audio Amateur, issue 1, 1986.

How musical considerations affect technical decisions in recording.

"About single, double & treble-blind testing," Letter in Hi-Fi News & Record Review, March, 1986.

"Backstage Info...on Microphones and Stereo," in booklet of Performance Recordings album pr6cd, Demonstration of Stereo Microphone Technique.

A primer of microphones and stereo.

"Audiences of the World, Arise!," Harvard Magazine, Nov.-Dec., 1990. Reprinted as "When The Absolute Sound Isn't" in The Absolute Sound, issue 73, 9/10/91.

"America's concert halls do not fail on subtleties; they fail on obvious things."

Program Notes for Boyk album of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," Performance Recordings® pr7lp & pr7cd, 1990.

1990 vs. 1960 in Audio.

Letter pointing out some amusing constants in the audiophile scene.

Program Notes for album "Boyk plays 20th-Century Masters," Performance Recordings® pr8cd, 1991.

Program Notes for album "Boyk plays Beethoven," Performance Recordings® pr9cd, 1991.

10 feet, 1¼ Inches, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Oct. 1, 1995.

Playing the world's longest piano, the Fazioli F-308.

"The Endangered Piano Technician," Scientific American, December, 1995. Reprinted in Piano & Keyboard, May-June, 1996.

The cultural crisis caused by the scarcity of fine concert piano technicians.

"Aube Tzerko As I Knew Him," contribution to In Memoriam: Aube Tzerko, TownHall Records compact disc THCD-47, available from the maker at 1-800-327-4212 or through their online order form. (In first release of the album only.)

A memoir of Boyk's last piano teacher.

"In Love With Sound," published in this Web site.

Personal essay.

"There's Life Above 20 Kilohertz: A Survey of Musical-Instrument Spectra to 102.4 kHz"

At least one member of each instrument family (strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion) produces energy to 40 kHz or above, and the spectra of some instruments reach the measurement limit of 102.4 kHz. Survey includes French horn, trumpet, violin, oboe, crash cymbals, sibilant speech, claves, a drum rimshot, triangle, jangling keys, and piano. Includes short description of others' work on perception of air- and bone-conducted ultrasound, and points out that even if ultrasound be taken as having no effect on perception of live sound, yet its presence may still pose a problem to the audio equipment designer and recording engineer.

"Improving Your Writing Through Editing"; published in the Caltech Music Lab Web site.

Gerald J. Sussman, James Boyk, "Small-signal distortion in feedback amplifiers for audio."

Published in this web site both Acrobat and Postscript formats.

James Boyk Home