Outdoor pianos are certainly popular these days. This trend is largely thanks to Luke Jerram, a British artist who created the project, Play Me, I’m Yours. Since 2008, Play Me, I'm Yours has installed over 1500 pianos in more than fifty cities around the world. Jerram says of his project, "Questioning the rules and ownership 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 certainly transforms a space. Thisshort film reveals what happens to a particular space with the introduction of the “People’s Piano.” What I find most moving in this film is the smiles that Giles describes, the introduction of unexpected, magical moments into everyday life, in a setting like this – a subway entrance – where the magical and musical doesn’t typically occur.
This magical quality is one of the reasons sound designer and vocalist Viviane Houle chose to incorporate outdoor pianos into the upcoming Only Animal Theatre production of Tinkers in Roberts Creek, BC.
From their website:
Tinkers is an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Paul Harding. This new transcendentalist work features an intimate and dazzling relationship with the natural world, woven into a story of family karma. Through an intergenerational story we meet a young boy and his search for his long-lost father Howard, the epileptic peddler with donkey and wagon, estranged from his family, and ever-ecstatic in his relationship with nature. Tinkers asks us how we collect together all the pieces of a relationship that has come apart, and tinker, tinker to bring it together again.
With a growing set crafted by German environmental art star, Cornelia Konrads, an off-grid sound score and puppets made from found materials, Tinkers looks at how people creating in nature exemplify the transcendent possibilities of Human Nature.
Literally set in the woods, this “roving forest immersion” features a completely off-the-grid sound design. This is no easy task. Without the use of any recorded sound, amplification, electricity or batteries, how would you create the sound of car tires on a gravel road? How about the sound of the motor?
One of my challenges in connection with the show is going to be tuning the piano later this week. In an outdoor environment, it’s not possible for a piano to stay in tune very long – consider the humidity during an afternoon rainshower compared to that during a cool, clear summer night. My goal will be the same as always: make the piano sound the best it can.
The People’s Piano had the good fortune of being on one piano technician’s route to work. This guy couldn’t help but stop and offer it a little TLC now and then. But despite how out of tune it may be, people are compelled to play or drawn to listen. For many, an out of tune piano simply sounds like an old piano, and this is evocative – haunting, even magical.
Regardless of your sound associations, I’m certain Tinkers will be a magical theatre experience!
Tinkers runs from July 25 to August 7, 2016. Learn more by visiting http://www.theonlyanimal.com/show/tinkers.
And to see more super-cool outdoor pianos, courtesy of Play Me, I'm Yours, check out this list!