Wednesday, September 19, 2018

SearchResearch Challenge (9/19/18): Mysteries from Mozart's time

Salzburg was Mozart's home ... 

... in his pre-Vienna years.  It's where he was born, lived, and launched his career.  

When I was visiting earlier this year, I visited several of the places that Mozart lived and performed.  As you'd expect, as I looked around, I noticed a few things--things that struck me as funny/odd.  Of course, being a curious fellow, I had to look these things up with a bit of online research.  Can you answer these oddities as well?  

Here are three of the things I had to look up.  I was surprised at the answers to each of these.  

1.  As you know, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had a famous sister--also a performing prodigy.  Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart, called Marianne and given the nickname "Nannerl, was his older sister.  But in nearly every picture of her, she's got a remarkable head of hair.  See this picture below: 

Nannerl and Wolfgang Mozart playing two-handed duets at the piano

The question I had was How do you sleep with hair like that?  Or, I suppose, the other way to think about it would be How much time do you spend on hair like that?  Any ideas?  

2.  When I visited the Mozart residence at No. 8 Makartplatz (the so-called "Dance Master's House," aka Tanzmeisterhaus), I was struck by the odd appearance of one of Mozart's pianos--the key colors are reversed!  The accidentals are white, while the naturals are black.  Here's what I mean; Mozart's piano keyboard is on the left, while a current piano keyboard is on the right. 

So... when did the colors change from black naturals to white naturals... and why? 

3.  Speaking of Fermi Estimation and Mozart's piano (we were, weren't we?)... What would you estimate as the total number of pianos in Salzburg during the year when Mozart left Salzburg for Vienna?  How would you do this estimate?  

Austrian pianos over the years

As always (and I hate to sound like an 8th grade math teacher), show your work!  At least tell us how you answered each of the Challenges!  

(And note that you don't need to answer all three of the Challenges.  If you don't have enough time, just do one.  But be sure to tell us HOW you figured out the answer. 

I'll write up what I found next week.  

Until then, Search On! 


  1. 2. So... when did the colors change from black naturals to white naturals... and why?

    As, in many cases in SRS Challenges, I didn’t know about this reversed keys. And it is very interesting. Doing a first approach search found:

    [piano white keys black black keys white]

    This was true not only for pianos, but also for the keyboards of organs and cembalos of the time.

    Why Were the White Keys and Black Keys on the Piano Reversed?

    [piano keys reversed]

    Why were the colors of the piano keys reversed in certain Viennese pianos made in the 1780s through the early 19th century?

    1. 1. The question I had was How do you sleep with hair like that? Or, I suppose, the other way to think about it would be How much time do you spend on hair like that? Any ideas?

      Before posting about the SRS Challenge, share that today I found out that ladybugs have yellowish blood! I didn’t know that. Also that most of insects blood is colorless. Source: DW

      Searching for this Q1, with Google autocomplete found there is a movie about her and also that she was very talented too.

      [ Anna Mozart Nannerl hairstyle]

      18th century classical audiences first came to know Wolfgang as part of a brother-sister duo of “wunderkinder.”

      In her notebook, after her mother's death, one of the recorded events of most days is "Viktoria did my hair," or "Katherl did my hair."... Using Ctrl- F “Hair”. Site continues: “I wondered what the construction of this elaborate hairdo involved. Some pictures show servants on step ladders dressing their ladies' coiffures. I began by looking for books on 18th-century hairdos and found little, then went to the Carnegie Museum and Western Pennsylvania Historical Society and was eventually directed to the wigshop at Williamsburg. I was fortunate to find someone both generous and expert. First, of all, she pointed out, a great length of hair such as Nannerl would have needed to achieve her "do" could not have been washed often: without hair dryers and central heat, it would have taken days to dry. The hair was combed over wire frames and linen pads stuffed with hemp seed and then pinned and pomaded into place. The pomade was a mixture of perfume and lard. No wonder Nannerl fretted.”

      [Anna Mozart Nannerl hair do] on books

      Searching for hair on her letters

      From Nannerl’s Wikipedia article in Spanish, found that ERL is suffix used to create a diminutive form, mostly in southern Germany and Austria.

    2. Not related to this Challenge but, very interesting and related to previous SRS Challenges. Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour might have been found in US

    3. Tried different approach and queries

      [history of Vienna women tower hairstyle]

      The pouf hairstyle: Wikipedia article "...The pouf was a very elaborate and time consuming hairstyle, hours were needed to create it...A high hairstyle was not necessarily time consuming or too labour-intensive. The following styling without decorations takes only 15 minutes and a hairdo of some 30 cm (one foot) in height is achieved..."Articles, also show some costs paid to hairdressers.

      [peinados Viena 1700]

      In Spanish La pasión por la moda en la era de María Antonieta

      With [ women's hairstyles throughout history in the 1700s]


      Although they would come to be associated with all that is rich, luxurious, and chic, the powdered wigs had the most curious — and rather disturbing — beginnings. Site also links to a site from the Victoria and Albert Museum to create your own wig

  2. Anne and Deb here - doing a search for 18th century women's hairstyles one of the first results was to a site called Two Nerdy Girls: The truth about big hair of the 1770s some very interesting info Anne searched hairstyle fashion 1750-1800 and got an article from Wikipedia which corroborated the info in my site. So the answer is you don't sleep on it you take it down before going to bed; women spent a lot of time doing this so it was for the upper classes.
    Will move on to the next question separately.

    1. Forgot to add in the wikipedia article -–75_in_Western_fashion

  3. Did a quick search for 1770s women's hairstyles and found this link in two parts: and part 2
    The two nerdy girls as they call themselves explain the styles, and the techniques required to construct these hairdos. Also, there is a brief discussion of hair care products from the period.

  4. Q2) did a search - piano keyboard black white keys reversed - got several hits one from the Yamaha company which said that no one knows exactly why the keys were changed to the way they are now one theory is the brighter color of the white keys was just more visually appealing and as pianos became more popular this became more important. We also found the wikipedia article on pianos but that didn't really give any detailed info. Another article Origins of the black piano keys doesn't explain why they were reversed after Mozart's time but does explain why there were black and white keys at all. Seems like it had to do with physics of acoustics and hand anatomy. This article points out that it took many years to come up with this design. Another article states that piano was invented by Barolomeo Cristofori which is confirmed by several sources. But this article says that it was a friend of Cristofori's Sebastian Leblanc who came up with the idea of switching they keys. Found one or 2 other sources that say the same but not sure how credible and not sure if these are just an example of echo chamber.

  5. Q3) this is really tough and I'm not sure Anne and I are going to be able to answer. Hadn't done the search challenge on Fermi so had to read up on what a Fermi problem is. I think I get it but not sure how to go about doing it. Have some ideas just think it is going to take to long. Did find the following bit of info "The rising popularity of the piano in Vienna caused a great demand for the instrument, which manufacturers were only too pleased to fill. By 1800, there were approximately sixty known makers building pianos in Vienna." This from the site The Piano: Viennese instruments. Think we'd need to know how many piano makers there were and how many pianos they could make in a year. But then not sure how to get that narrowed to just Salzburg although maybe instead of piano makers in Vienna we'd need to know how many piano makers in Salzburg. Our thinking is pianos were probably built to order and they were sold locally because of difficulty in transport. So think we will end here and read how someone else solved the problem! Trying to think about WWDD!

    1. Remember, for Fermi Estimation, you don't need an exact number. Just walk us through HOW you would make such an estimate! I'm hoping that people will write in with their process so we can all learn how a great estimator does their thinking. What would you need to know in order to do an estimate? (For instance, you probably need to know the population of Salzburg at the time.) You mention the number of piano makers--that's a great piece of data. A related question: Where all piano makers local? Or would they ship their pianos all over central Europe? Did Viennese pianos end up in Salzburg?

    2. alt to the Fermi E… answer is almost always the same = need a bigger, magical napkin…
      Ferrari Estimator - Pista

    3. For the Fermi Estimation, was thinking we need in addition to the questions you mentioned, number of schools teaching piano, which instrument was the preferred, the cost of the piano

      These are some queries I'd try [how many pianos were in Vienna in 1700] [pianos Vienna 1700]

      In a quick view, found:

      Before 1850...Fortepiano...Pre modern times... (before the modern piano)

      A large Arpicembalo by Bartolomeo Cristofori, of new invention that produces soft and loud…” the part that says, “that produces soft and loud” translates to “che fa’ il piano, e il forte.” People originally just ignored Cristoforio’s name of choosing and called the instrument pianoforte or “soft-loud.” Eventually the name was simply shortened to piano.

      Apparently not so popular until years later so, probably not so many pianos nor fortes

      More on History...Mozart's favourite instrument at the time was made in Augsburg by Johann Andreas Stein, referring to fortepiano which price was 300 gulden

      [Define gulden] From Wikipedia: Gold coin

      With [300 gulden Vienna 1700 in today value]

      300 Austrian-Hungarian florin/gulden [1863-1900] in year 1863 could buy 193.88968343638211 gram gold. The price of 193.88968343638211 gram gold in year 2015 was 7231.4637882286115 US dollar [1791-2015]... 300 Austrian-Hungarian florin/gulden [1863-1900] in year 1863 was the amount a male worker in Sweden received in wage for 3077.26537142943 hours work. I think it was even more expensive in 1700's Source:

  6. I was just reading my Google Discover and found this article. I share 2 because the one I read is in Spanish but to make it easy to read and not translate (in case Spanish is hard to read) searched for one in English

    Some weeks ago, we talked about avocados. And now, I learnt that we can patent trees!

    BBC News Mundo - Carla, el aguacate mutante "enorme y aterrador" por el que se pelea una familia dominicana en Estados Unidos

    Is your avocado an illegal clone? Grower sues Miami competitor over trendy hot-seller

    Have any of you already tried Carla? How is possible that they could patent the tree if Nature did it and was pure luck? Now, I wonder how many other trees are patented or what other similar are.

  7. I needed to know when Mozart left Salzburg. Answer: 1781 (easy to find).

    I also needed to know Salzburg's population around that time.

    [This source]( says Salzburg had a population of 16,000 in 1771. Mozart left Salzburg for good in 1781, so adding an optimistic 2000 people to the town’s population gives an easy 18,000 number to work with.

    18,000 people with my guess of 4 people per household = 4500 households
    Half of that live in poverty = 2250 households
    Of the people who don't live in poverty, probably 5% can even afford a piano = 112 households
    10% of those that could afford them actually have one = 12 households

    That gives 12 pianos in Salzburg around 1781.

    ps: apologies for ugly URL - I don't know how to embed on this platform

    1. Hi, if you want to make your links clickable, you need to use href as this page explains for each one. Hope it helps

  8. 1. The question I had was How do you sleep with hair like that? Or, I suppose, the other way to think about it would be How much time do you spend on hair like that? Any ideas? Well, [woman hair do 1780] finds

    This high hairstyle was created using toques (or “cushions”) which were made of fabric or cork and shaped like a heart or spear. It was attached to the top of the head, and then natural and false hair was curled, waved, or frizzed and piled over and around the cushion. Such elaborate hairstyles could be worn for days or weeks at a time. Mary Frampton later recalled,

    “At that time [1780] everybody wore powder and pomatum; a large triangular thing called a cushion, to which the hair was frizzed up with three or four enormous curls on each side; the higher the pyramid of hair, gauze, feathers, and other ornaments was carried the more fashionable it was thought, and such was the labour employed to rear the fabric that night-caps were made in proportion to it and covered over the hair, immensely long black pins, double and single, powder, pomatum and all ready for the next day. I think I remember hearing that twenty-four large pins were by no means an unusual number to go to bed with on your head” (1780).

    2 So... when did the colors change from black naturals to white naturals... and why? [popularity of pianos in vienna 1800] finds which tells us amongst many other things that as the piano was continually being improved the key colours were changed from the harpsichord style of Mozart to the reverse to distinguish the new instrument as more than just a modified harpsichord. However [piano key colors history] finds this from Yamaha However, when pianos became the dominant keyboard instrument in the 19th century, somewhere along the line, the positional relationship between black and white switched.

    Why this happened is not well understood, but because visually, the color white stands out while the color black recedes into the background, the reason is said to be because making the half-tone keys that stick out black presents an image of stability to the eye. Also, it is said that as pianos became more widely used, a brighter keyboard was simply more preferable. The custom of having the naturals a darker colour was said to have originated in France to show off the player's hands to better advantage. . .It seems that around 1700 ivory was used for key covering at times. Many and varied materials have been used for this purpose, including bone, mother-of-pearl, porcelain, tortoise-shell, silver, boxwood, cedar, ebony, pear and other rare and polished woods.

    j, still fermiating over Challenge 3

  9. 3. My fermiated conclusion based on Big Ed's finding of the population. I figure that this crazy popular instrument could have been bought by the upper 2% of households. So, roughly 250 pianos ? Upper 1% seemed too small and 10% too big, I have settled on the 2%.

    j, not a noted pianist nor fermiator