I just found out on the PTG website that Bernhard Stopper, who created the TUNIC ONLYPURE piano tuning software has suddenly died. He was only 59 years old. I am very sad. Here is the post that was written about him:
[Translated from German]
Appreciation from Bernhard Stopper (08/09/1961 - 08/03/2021)
Our professional colleague, the piano builder Bernhard Stopper, is dead.
His wife and two sons wrote that he died unexpectedly and suddenly on the night of August 3rd at the age of 59.
We all know how drastic fate can strike, and yet we can hardly ever be prepared when the moment comes. What remains to be done is to remember.
Bernhard Stopper, born in Tübingen, grew up in Ergenzingen (Tübingen district), did his apprenticeship in the Vögele piano store in Tübingen and, after his apprenticeship and a stay abroad in Paris, opened his workshop with a shop in Tübingen. As a master piano builder, he overhauled old pianos and grand pianos, created concert and private customer moods, advised manufacturers in matters of construction / scaling, and, above all, developed important things for our industry: the string calculation program "Mensurix" and the "Stopper tuning". Most recently, in addition to continuous improvements to the "Tunic OnlyPure" tuning software, he worked on a software that can simulate the resulting sound by entering various parameters (such as hammer mass, string material, scale length, texture of the soundboard, etc.).
Stopper was one of those people who were given freedom of thought in the crucial points of their work. In his case this meant an unbiased view of the complex relationships in instruments, the willingness to slaughter sacred cows, to name errors, even when the headwind provoked. He repeatedly questioned his own findings and continued to develop them further. Where he slaughtered cows that were supposedly sacred, it was not because of the intention to offend others, but because of the thirst for research; The knowledge gained was accompanied by the assumption that others will accept what has been recognized with the same curiosity, the same thirst for knowledge. That the laws of the human being sometimes work differently, that new things are often greeted with rejection at first, he had to make this experience again and again, sometimes painfully.
In addition to his curiosity, there was an extraordinarily deep knowledge of physics, mathematics and acoustics for our craft-oriented profession, which scientists have repeatedly confirmed to be correct. As far as he was concerned, it was done with a mixture of craftsmanship-musical intuition and real, scientific penetration.
The framework of this appraisal does not provide an adequate description of all his developments; Let's limit ourselves to what is probably his most important achievement, the stopper mood. During my apprenticeship he told me how he got into it. He had heard of a French piano tuner who tuned in perfect fifths, which of course resulted in clearly floating octaves. As it was common back then.
If tuning methods were unsatisfactory and he was attracted by the radical fifths tuning, he practiced them for a while, which, however, resulted in complaints in everyday tuning; this variant went too far for most ears. He then dealt with the mathematical side of tuning - and then had one of those flashes of inspiration, which to call brilliant is no exaggeration: the idea of distributing the Pythagorean comma not over an octave but in a duodecime. It was not about reinventing the wheel, he always emphasized that. Even back then it was common practice among good concert tuners to stretch the octaves - but there was no really tangible system. Sometimes the octave was stretched further, sometimes less, in the middle register different than in the bass or treble, and it is there that there were probably the most weird variations. The problem with an octave that is only stretched by feeling is that one sacrifices a pure interval, initially adding more beat and more ambiguity to the tuning. Now it was always a matter of one lucky hand whether a coherent sound came out in the end. With the stopper tuning it is possible to practically shimmy along a clear system, which results in an even stretching of the octaves in all registers - and, the crucial point, goes hand in hand with this evenness that the octave is considered to be pure Interval "sacrifices" - but again gains a pure interval: the duodecime. I learned this mood in my apprenticeship with the duodecimal gripper, a wooden hanger that makes it possible to grasp this interval when tuning, and I still have it in my field service pocket.
Stopper told me that when he presented his mood to the BDK, he used a sawed-off coat hanger, which created amusement - and ridicule. A young master piano builder steps in front of the piano building world and has the courage to do something like this - all due respect!
And today? Everyone knows it, the stopper mood, and many colleagues practice it, partly with their software, partly by ear, and partly with software from the competition that has meanwhile adapted its algorithms.
It is interesting how far-reaching his research was in the area of this mood: He dealt with neural networks in the brain, the structure of which corresponds to that of the mathematical framework of the stopper mood. I can neither verify nor falsify this here; What I can say from experience: In all the years that I have been practicing this mood, there has not been a single complaint. It always sounded coherent to all ears, also when it comes to the relationship between the registers, it fits perfectly with orchestras, strings, all imaginable musical instruments, and it makes duo tuning even with two instruments of different brands a walk in the park. I conclude from this: It has hit a crucial nerve, touches the universal, is above subjective perception, is universal and therefore timeless.
He went one step further when he developed the first usable tuner ever equipped with its stopper tuning. While programming the algorithms, he noticed mathematical symmetries, which he examined more closely. In practice, they mean that the necessary beats of the tempered tuning are partially canceled out interfering in chord structures if the stopper tuning is implemented in an extremely precise, specific way. To do this, you have to tune by ear in triads, and the tuner developed on this basis implements this mammoth task much more easily.
In an interview, concert technician Jan Kittel says that the aim of his work is to give an instrument as little character as possible in order to enable an absolutely universal expression; it seems to me to be the same with the mood: the less "personality", that is, subjective weakness or strength, the more universal and in the service of the cause it is, the more a broad, clear, secure reason opens up for you can walk and shape at will. With this merit for the world of music alone, Bernhard Stopper made himself unforgettable and indispensable with his mood.
Briefly mentioned is his "Mensurix", a program with which he revolutionized the world of string calculation and finally brought piano construction from the physical stone age to the modern age. One could also write about his simulations of soundboards, his practical work on acoustic systems; the instruments that he overtook sounded incredibly fast, free and good from the depths of the acoustic system.
There are always honors for great merits. The fact that such an award never came in the case of Bernhard Stopper, certainly one of the most important piano makers of our time, is one of the manageable but regrettable failures of our industry.
Bernhard was one of those people who could take you in a sympathetic way - through his enthusiasm when he told you about his latest work, and with his almost mischievously mischievous smile that accompanied his remarks. He was never arrogant, but rather with an almost childlike and naive openness and lightness, plus a sense of bizarre humor. The well-hidden sensitivities and vulnerabilities behind it were taken by those who knew him well.
The first reactions to his death show that many people lack him, as a professional, as a colleague, as a lovable person; most of all those who were closest to him have to do without him, his family, his wife Dörte and his two sons Daniel and Patrick; We wish them (cohesion) stability and the ability to let the pain that hits them become bearable over time.
So, dear musicians and colleagues, let's pause for a moment in our currently absurdly hectic professional life and admit to ourselves how important Bernhard Stopper was - and continues to be - as an expert for musicians, for us piano makers, for our industry worldwide will.