The Best Things in Life Are Free

(No, contrary to this title, this is not a post about Janet Jackson’s 92 hit.)

I have since discovered that in the blogosphere this is hardly news, but as we sat on our couch, and watched one of our weekly favs, CBS Sunday Morning, it was news to us. I was quickly swept away by the warm, fuzzy possibilities of it…a vision of society rapt in mutual love and celebration. It was as if the participating cities were joining together in one big Coke-like I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing “Be-In”. Being an idealist, this is just the sort of thing that tickles my fancy (or ivories…read on).

San Francisco had hearts, Cincinnati pigs, and Chicago cows. I have always supported and been drawn to these sorts of large scale, outdoor, public art exhibits…but this takes the cake! Leave it to the Brits to show us up, and come up with the winningest idea.

The What

Introducing: Play Me, I’m Yours, a pretty radical idea…one part interactive art, one part sociology study, in the form of a fleet of street pianos. I’ll let the well phrased deets (in quotes) from the Cow Pianowebsite speak for themselves.:

“Street pianos are appearing in cities across the world. Located in skate parks, industrial estates, laundrettes, precincts, bus shelters and train stations, outside pubs and football grounds, the pianos are for any member of the public to enjoy and claim ownership of. Who plays them and how long they remain is up to each community.”

The Why

“The pianos act as sculptural, musical, blank canvases that become a reflection of the communities they are embedded into. Many pianos are personalised and decorated. Questioning the ownership and rules of public space ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ is a provocation, inviting the public to engage with, activate and take ownership of their urban environment.”

It’s no surprise that placing a free-to-use musical instrument smack dab in the middle of a busy civic setting is a welcome gift that can be a balm to soothe (or annoy the periodic grump), a spark to connect, or even just a momentary diversion to amuse. It all depends on the musical offering of the player…the receptiveness of (a) likely passer(s)-by…and the mingling of their two or more spirits! Or, a lone player on an empty street can enjoy a rare stolen moment.

The Where

“The first pianos appeared in March 2008 when 15 pianos were placed into the streets of Birmingham, UK.”

More recent sites have included Sao Paolo (’08), Sydney (’09), Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk, England: ’09)…and currently London (check out the piano map)!

Photo: Oli Scarff, Getty Images

Photo: Oli Scarff, Getty Images

The Who

It is an arts project by Luke Jerram, a self-described “colour blind installation artist, who fuses his artistic sculptural practice with his scientific and perceptual studies.”

Lighting London on Fire: More Proof

I now leave you with this classic, which Londoners rightfully own.:

Hopefully the next stop will be SF, so we can all gather ‘round and sing “Go West”, by the Village People. What song, in your current hometown would you most want to hear/play/sing-along with on a street piano?

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1 comment so far

  1. jumping clapping man on

    Good news!

    Upon encouraging mastermind Luke Jerram to bring his project to the States, and sharing that San Francisco would be the perfect town for it, he replied:

    “Hoping to bring the arts project to the States next summer. Let u know where and when, as and when I know. Best – Luke”

    So, hopefully I’ll have some news on Street Pianos hitting the US (SF?), by next summer.


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