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June 23, 2009

Artist places pianos all over London, inviting spontaneous music-making

Luke Jerram has put a whole new spin on the phrase "performance art." The artist has placed 30 "street pianos" all over London in public spaces -- street corners, markets, train stations, squares and parks. Each has its own distinctive decoration, a song book and ...

Luke Jerraman invitation: "Play Me -- I'm Yours."

Jerram, who has introduced the art work in a Sydney and Sao Paulo, likens the project to "a creative blank canvas" that gets filled in by passersby. In a BBC interview, the artist elaborates: "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."

At the end of the display, July 13, the instruments will be"donated to local schools and community groups."

The concept is intriguing, at the very least, and the minds reels at the thought of how it might be applied to the streets of, say, Baltimore.


Posted by Tim Smith at 11:58 AM | | Comments (4)


And which city for violas?

Even art has its limitations, alas. TIM

Intriguing! What about kazoos for Baltimore?

Maybe not quite hygienic enough, though. TIM

Actually, this is an absolutely _beautiful_ idea, especially on such a large scale. When I was really young, I would play the "cutting-edge technology" electronic keyboards (absolutely laughable today) at various department stores while my Mom shopped nearby; I would usually have a small crowd gather about me as I played my early-piano-lesson versions of various classics and film music -- everything from Tchaikovsky to Bartok to Morricone's "The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly," even Vangelis' then-popular "Chariots Of Fire." This concept isn't so different from my own "performer in a box," where you take a musician, place him/her _discreetly_ in a curtained little performing niche (with or without electronic amplification, personal choice) amidst a public space like a train station or museum, and let the performer play away for a while (I would tend to favour improvisations in this setting, but a host of scores could be played, too!). Talk about enlivening an otherwise-drab environment, or enriching an already magnificent place! (The curtain -- hints of "Wizard of Oz" here -- prevents one from becoming the dreaded "cocktail pianist" upon whom passerby foist [usually inane] requests.)

Oh, the _perfect_ city for violas would be either New York City or Buffalo -- either case would be _totally_ appropriate for a tribute to Morton Feldman's _The Viola In My Life_. OR we could celebrate Paul Hindemith and assign that distinction to Frankfurt am Main.

Kazoos, however, should be banned outright, everywhere, outside of circus tents and parties. %^)

I think you're onto something. TIM

There is actually a grand piano located in the terminal of the Charlotte airport. Although I had most of J.S. Bach's Overture in the French Manner BMV 831 in my fingers and memorized I lacked the nerve to actually play it. However no one else played it either.

Next time, go ahead. Give it a whirl. What a civilized prospect for an airport. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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