Monday, March 24, 2008

Tickling ivories and fancies

The placement of pianos around Birmingham, England by the artist Luke Jerram and the Fierce Art Collective has garnered lots of media attention, as amateur players all over the city have sat down to plunk at the keys. I ran across the story last week in the Guardian (via Artsjournal.)

A quote from the NPR report: "It's getting people talking you wouldn't normally talk to, and the people you couldn't"

This reminded me of one of my favorite poems, "Self-Improvement" by Tony Hoagland. Linked here, but here's the last stanza's kicker:

So the avenues we walk down,
full of bodies wearing faces,
are full of hidden talent:
enough to make pianos moan,
sidewalks split,
streetlights deliriously flicker.

Cold weather and moisture have taken their toll on the keys, hammers, and internal action. Some of the sounds captured by the NPR report sounded almost like some of John Cage's preludes and inventions for prepared piano. A little off-kilter, but delightful nonetheless. When the pianos are taken away, sometime around the end of the month, the world will still be a strange place, but less magically and less musically so.