Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Making a Scene

This week, street pianos moved into Boston. The "Play Me, I'm Yours" program has installed more than 1000 decorated pianos around the world in public urban areas. I've seen people playing these inviting pianos, banging out everything from classical vocal duets in the afternoon to the latest Maroon 5 hit on a Saturday night. This project brings pianos and musical opportunity out onto the streets, bringing pianos to those who may not have access to one. The Street Pianos website explains the intended purpose of the project:

"Disrupting peoples’ negotiation of their city, Street Pianos are designed to provoke people into engaging, activating and claiming ownership of their urban landscape.  Like a musical equivalent of Facebook, Street Pianos, together with this website, provide an interconnected resource for the public to express themselves." 

While the pianos have received a lot of attention in Boston this week, other public acts of music are starting to become a more popular urban trend. According to their video posted on September 24, the prank collective called Improv Everywhere (known for the No Pants Subway Ride and Black Tie Beach) organized members of a Carnegie Hall orchestra to play on the streets of New York. The catch? They were conducted by passers-by on the sidewalk. Although they only played one piece, the orchestra responded to the motions of each conductor with changes of tempo, dynamics, and style. Conductors of all ages and experience levels tried their hand at the podium, some very serious and some giggling and even dancing all the way through. 

Considering the popularity of these two events on my social media pages this week, could the act of removing classical music from its safe concert hall and dropping it into new settings for all to see be a way to reconnect this art form to the mainstream? As I see it, it has become more and more common for groups and composers to make a public spectacle of themselves in the name of both advertising and new ideas in art. But is it worth the effort? Although it is heartwarming to see people who aren't classically trained playing pianos in public and conducting orchestras on the street, does this really make an impact? Or is it just a fun thing that happened once on the way to work? I would like to think that at the very least, these scenes have a positive impact on the people who witness them. And any positive impact in association with music is a good thing.

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