Folks, first of all, piano above was meant to be a piece of ART. It was on display in Munich 2015 (DE) and although we couldn’t reach nor play it at the time, it seemed just the right eye-catcher for today’s blog…
There isn’t a single subject in this world without adversaries; Public Pianos are no different. Pros & Cons put aside, what can we do to remain a smiling example?
Violence comes in many sizes and shapes, so let’s distinguish between:
- Vandalism to Public Pianos – Happens too often, little we can do to prevent it and (best case) followed up by organizers and authorities.
- Violence against players – Having played on six continents, aggression does happen, although not often. Again, little we could do, but show a smile and continue.
- Mis-educating our next-generation – Where parents/caregivers neglect their kids “playing” hammer fists, elbows, even feet or bottoms (…), it might be an opportunity to share our love and respect for the instrument!
Heart-breaking, but let’s look at those 3 in more detail.
Vandalism to Public Pianos
Unhappy citizens can do bad things to Public Pianos. In general we respect everyone’s opinion, but once people practice violence to our beloved instrument, those are the cross-roads where we split indefinitely. When we studied publications on PIANO HATERS, we found countless publications in various languages and even more countries. Daily news footage from one state to another, it must be devastating to the ones facilitating and playing those pianos.
I can’t look at these destructions without thinking of this quote from Fight-Club (1999):
- Brad Pitt: “So where’d you go, psycho boy?”
- Edward Norton: “I felt like destroying something beautiful”
I don’t expect those people ever to read this blog, so let’s move on and try to continue beautiful things!
Violence against players
We’ve played all continents of this planet and we’ve never experienced physical violence against us or any other players. Even better news: we never found any publications on it. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Verbally though, one rare occasions, we’ve observed and experienced some. In general, bystanders liking what you’re doing will show a sign of appreciation, where others simply ignore you. Interestingly, those that clearly meant to be unkind never did so with eye-contact, they’d cross behind the player hissing something nasty while walking on. Once you descend into the Twitter sewer, some anonymous heroes remain deep inside the woodworks with quotes like (translated):
- “My wife and I found each other as soul-mates, based on our mutual hatred for Public Piano players”
- “Feel sorry for our station police, heavily armed but not authorized to shoot those ego-trippers”
Ehm, have a nice life to you too, anonymous unhappy persons, what can I say?
Mis-educating our next-generation
Some of you might disagree this being an act of violence (and that’s OK!). Looking at it from the perspective of the piano, let me assure you that 6 simultaneous hammer fists, elbows etc. can be quite damaging to the instrument. Secondly – in our humble opinion – the damage is done to the child when it wrongly gets a message it’s OK to mistake a piano for being a toy. You’d be amazed to see how many of them get phone-filmed by their parents while impairing the piano…
As a piano pilgrim, observing inattentive or aloof parents/caretakers, we have a few tricks up our sleeve to get a child’s attention and share our respect for the piano:
- First and without exception: First a smile on our face! Goal is to be an example and share our love for the instrument.
- Secondly, explain gently but firmly that pianos are played with fingers only. Show your fingers and play notes one by one, then ask the child if they can do that
- What works for us is naming the upper octaves home of the birds, where lower octaves are for the bears and lions! Tell them a simple story while playing those octaves. We’re aiming for a smile and once you see that, you’re on the right track. Almost without exception: once you’ve seen that smile, the child adjusts its behavior and will try to play and hear “a bird, then a lion” itself.
- Highest achievable – observed on countless occasions – is the child showing its parents or another child where the birds live and how the bears sounds like.. Mission accomplished, step back from the piano and enjoy the moment!
- Alternatively – eye contact with parents advised first! – ask the child if you can sit next to them and play a crazy tune together, fingers only, off-ya-go.