blog image-1321 pianos is a project in two parts. First, I will travel around the state of Minnesota in order to convince as many pianists as possible, of any style and level, to play a very strange piano. Along the way I will record, take pictures and make videos of the players I meet. Then, much later, I will pick 21 of the recordings from my travels and electronically create 21 new musical pieces entirely from samples derived from the original recordings. Feel free to read more about the formal process here.

Why this project? The inspiration comes from the piano itself, a gift from a fan. I have had this piano in my possession for over a decade sitting in my garage, and I’ve been trying to find the right project to feature it. I was also interested in applying for the McKnight Composer Residency Program, and this project seemed like a good fit. I’ve always loved Minnesota and wanted to get to know it better. Bringing this particular piano to this particular state gives me an opportunity to create an interactive piece, explore by car, see old friends, and meet new ones.

The piano was originally designed for a sailing yacht, so it is short scaled, and made of teak. Teak was used because it is rot-resistant, and lighter then most woods, and very sturdy. The piano is much lighter than a typically older upright, or even a spinet, but its not actually “light”. Probably a little heavier than a Hammond B-3. Made by John Broadwood and Sons, the piano has what is known as a “birdcage action”, which seems to both horrify and delight most piano techs. I assume it was built before 1900. A tuner looked at it years ago and simply said, “it can never be tuned.”


4 thoughts on “WHAT IS 21 PIANOS?

  1. Hi Wayne. That piano doesn’t need to go on a trip, it already is one. I’d love to see you expand on “Why this project?” Are you trying to dig into what people expect to hear from a piano? About whether they consider what comes out to be music? Something entirely different? Have a great trip!


    1. Some people love it, some people find it funny but not “good”, and a few people couldn’t even deal with it. But mostly I have been surprised by how into it a lot of people are. For example there was a young woman who played a piece of her own, and then really wanted to play something “everyone would know”, I think because she came to understand that it was the transformation from expectations to reality that was part of what makes it interesting.

      Sounds great to me!!!


      1. Yes, the transformation is what is so intriguing. It reminds me of when someone quotes another tune in their solo, but in an entirely different harmonic context. It makes you hear it in a new way.

        Liked by 1 person

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