Never Done: I played an outdoor piano
Oh, I thought this was going to be an entirely happy story. Sing For Life Pop Up Pianos put pianos in outdoor public spaces for the public to play. Happy story! Happy story! Happy story! And partially it was. I went to find one -- chose a grand piano at Grand Army Plaza -- and when I arrived there there were three boys working out one song, over and over again. I asked them if I could take their photo for my blog (yes) and then I sat down and listened to them for about 15 minutes. Eventually some littler kids came along and wanted to play, and I asked the bigger boys if they'd switch out for the littler ones, which they easily did. But the littler kids got shy and wanted me to play first -- so I sat down at the collaged piano and began to play. I found I was a little self-conscious, and kept looking down at the keys, but then realized that there wasn't a lot of point in playing an outdoor piano if I'm not going to just be free and look out into the world.
So I did my best to throw out expectations about what a great pianist I was supposed to have been (12 years of lessons as a kid and yet more as an adult) and lift my head up and gaze out at the Grand Army arch, and play. And you know what? The more I enjoyed myself, the better I played, and the better I played, the more people stopped by to listen, and the more people stopped by to listen, the more self conscious I became, and the more self conscious I became the worse I played, and the worse I played the more I got to remind myself that this was for me and my own enjoyment, and the cycle started all over again.
I played for a while, and then someone else came up and wanted to play, so I gave her the piano seat and went on my way. When I got home later and looked up more about the street piano project, I found this NY Times article which makes it clear that the idea was the work of Luke Jerram, a British artist whose exhibit, Play Me I'm Yours, appeared in NYC last summer -- and that this year, Sing For Life appears to have appropriated Luke's idea and moved on without him, without even giving him credit. Really? This is how an arts organization treats an artist? Really? Can't we do better than that?
This week's mide (middah) is Separation: Respect in sexual and intimate relationships, and lest you think that was a non-sequitorial leap, I would propose that the relationship between an artist and their art is an intimate one -- and deserving of respect. I would also propose that the relationship between an artist and an arts organization is an intimate one, and fraught with issues of power and money and creativity -- issues that make it even more important that respect is prioritized. So what do we do, as citizens of New York, with Luke's free pianos dotting the streets without Luke receiving credit? Another sticker project? (art is real work) A letter-writing campaign? Maybe someone could write a song that credits Luke with the idea, and stick it in the songbooks that are attached to all the pianos -- and then organize a Luke Jerram support sing-a-long.
Any of this could happen. If you're inspired to do something, please let me know. Maybe I'll say you can take my idea and run with it, but it would be nice to be asked.