Pianos have always been cherished objects in a household; they are machines with the ability to revive Bach and Beethoven, create infinite jazz improvisations, or simply sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” And the best part about the piano’s (and any other instruments’) vast and timeless powers—it allows the music to come from us. Pianos provide us with a special gift of ability—to express ourselves in musical notes, through merging ourselves with the works of masters or through our own creative inspiration. Perhaps this is why I watched the video in this New York Times article of unwanted pianos suffering violent shoving and smashing with my mouth agape and in horror. But as Daniel J. Wakin explains, I am not the only one with a strong reaction to the destruction of pianos. People who have seen videos of piano-dumping called it “barbaric, painful, outrageous, even criminal,” as if it were puppies being chucked from the back of a truck and subsequently crushed. But they’re not puppies; they’re pianos—inanimate objects that feel nothing when their wood splits. And yet they are immensely emotionally-charged. Whether it is the piano’s sentient vocal capacity (including the agonizing groan it makes upon impact) or the sentiment we attach to it because of what it provides for us, my heart goes out to those unwanted pianos. Watch the video and read about it here and gives us your thoughts on the strong reactions these pianos (or really any symbol of art/creation/history) can illicit.
His mother’s lessons
Van Cliburn’s mother told him, “Don’t beat the piano. Caress the keys. Listen for the eye of the sound.” Like a storm, each note has an eye – the still center around which all its sound and vibration revolves.
One of thirteen slides by LIVE artist-in-residence Flash Rosenberg from our May 15 event with Van Cliburn. Flash draws our programs as they’re happening, creating conversation portraits. See the whole set here… and her final animations here…
Photo from last night’s event with Van Cliburn! Here, Joyce Yang, a silver medalist in the 2005 Van Cliburn Competition, plays for Cliburn and LIVE director Paul Holdengräber. See more photos by LIVE photographer Jori Klein from the evening here…
The May 19, 1958 TIME cover after Van Cliburn won the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Cliburn will be at LIVE on May 22 to discuss his piano career and becoming, essentially, a rock star in the eyes of the American public during the Cold War.
Another note about this cover: it was done by Robert Vickrey, who is responsible for painting many of the TIME covers at this time with egg tempera. A few years ago, I was in a used bookstore in Syracuse, NY and found a book titled, The Affable Curmudgeon. I bought it because I liked the name, and I was on a non-fiction essay kick. It was Vickrey’s makeshift journal, where he wrote about his experiences painting iconic figures for TIME alongside personal anecdotes of family life, and being at dinner parties he really didn’t want to be at. Vickrey passed away last year, but luckily, his works have been compiled and published by Philip Eliasoph in Robert Vickrey: The Magic of Realism.