Tag Archives: piano

You aren’t paying for quality

Piano quality today is nowhere near the quality that it used to be

In the latter quarter of the twentieth century, it became increasingly obvious that major historical manufacturers had lost their capacity to build a magnificent piano. In one case, the failure was precipitated in the early 1970s when CBS bought Steinway & Sons. Industry lore had it that the few remaining skilled artisans were permitted to work in Steinway factories, though perhaps not doing the fine refinements and regulation they were uniquely suited to perform. According to insiders’ reports, the newly jobless in unemployment offices local to Steinway’s New York facilities had, as their first assignment, to apply for work building pianos. As assets were sold or exhausted, and as forests across the world fell out of sustainable management for wood quality, it became increasingly difficult to purchase wood of the high quality that would have been standard only fifty years earlier. The ideal material — Sitka spruce grown to full mature size in a dense, sheltered stand — had all been cut years ago. No magnificent grand pianos were being built, though a few Japanese instruments came close, due to irreproducible flukes of soundboard or final finish quality; most American-made vertical pianos were of marginal quality, and in steep decline; Japanese pianos — especially Yamaha — were of uniformly consistent quality, and — especially Kawai — of uniformly high quality.

Play me, I’m yours

I love thisIt’s a project that leaves pianos in public spaces for anyone to play.  It’s in Geneva right now and in London (Jun 2011) and San Juan (Dec 2011) this summer.  It’s also made stops in Austin, Adelaide, Grand Rapids, Pécs, San Jose, Belfast, Cincinnati, Blackburn & Burnley, New York, London, Bath, Barcelona, Bristol, London, Bury St Edmunds, Sydney, Sao Paulo, and Birmingham.

Street PianosTouring internationally since 2008, “Play Me, I’m Yours” is an artwork by British artist Luke Jerram. Over 400 pianos have now been installed in cities across the globe, from New York to Sydney, bearing the simple instruction ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’.

Located in public parks, bus shelters and train stations, outside galleries and markets and even on bridges and ferries, the pianos are available for any member of the public to play and enjoy. Who plays them and how long they remain is up to each community. Many pianos are personalised and decorated by artists or the local community. ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ disrupts people’s negotiation of their city and invites the public to engage with, activate and take ownership of their urban environment.

Each city has a website made for the public to upload their films, photos and stories sharing their interaction with the pianos. The websites act as one of the legacies for the project whilst connecting the pianos and communities across each city. After each presentation of the project, the pianos are donated to schools and community groups in the area.

What a great idea.  I can think of several places in Saskatoon that would be perfect for a street piano (Vimy Memorial, Meewasin Valley near Lawson Heights, Rotary Park, Kinsmen Park).  Anyone want to help bring it to Saskatoon?