21 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.”