Friday, June 25, 2010
Summer is here - and the pianos are loose!
Summer is here - and the pianos are loose! I didn’t know that, until the young man sitting next to me on the train last Saturday told me about it. 60 pianos would be distributed all over the city, for people to play as they pleased.
It seemed a little hard to believe. Maybe I had misunderstood - or had he been pulling my leg? We had both had a full day, I was returning from the annual choir party in East Hampton, and he was coming back from a 66 mile bike ride.
On Monday, the newsletter from the Third Street Music School confirmed that it was true. Luke Jerram, a British artist, got people to donate their old pianos, which are now distributed all over the city for people to play from 9 am to 10 pm until July 5. After that, they will be donated to institutions all over the country.
A map showing the locations of the pianos is available on the Internet, http://www.streetpianos.com/nyc2010/ On Monday, on the way to my volunteer shift at the Open Center, I checked out the one at the Bryant Park Library. It can still do some background percussion for a rock band, but that’s about it. The one at Macy’s is a better choice, but it didn’t have a bench, and the garden chair I had to use brought the keyboard up to about shoulder level. Regardless of that, I managed a Prelude and Fugue, and people didn’t seem to mind. I could have used a third hand to turn pages and keep the music in place. There is a limit to what clothes pins can do.
On Wednesday, I made a good find: the piano at Alice Tully Hall. It stands on a little terrace by the entrance, below street level, and the stairs that surround it create an intimate space.
The traffic noise coming from Broadway was floating over our heads. It took more courage than I expected to just sit down and play.
The traffic noise did a strange thing: I had to focus so hard to hear myself that it brought me back to myself. In the middle of all the noise, the piano and I became a unit making a different kind of sound.
Even though the sound did not carry very far, I like to think that it made a difference, just being there, adding a faint overtone of harmony to the symphony of the city: the traffic noise, the rumble of the subway, the people rushing, talking on the phone all the time, their minds at their point of destination before their bodies can take them there.
The pianos are a chance to pause for a moment and reconnect.
They invite some to stay and listen, others to sit down and play, whatever comes to their mind - a glissando in passing, an improvisation, a medley from the last audition at the Juilliard School, the beginning of a piece learnt at a piano lesson long ago.
Rachmaninov, Moment Musical, Beethoven, Pathetique, Schubert Impromptu, etc.
Chopin, Nocturne in C-sharp minor
Choir is out for the summer, but my inner alarm clock still gets me up in time for the 7:30 bus into the city on Sunday morning. Unless it’s pouring this Sunday, I’ll take my music, go to the city and see what I can add to the concert.