The piano is a pretty straightforward instrument. The music is laid out in front of you in black and white keys in an unsurprising straight line. The classical image of a piano in a sitting room or concert hall makes it seem like the safest, most conventional instrument around. And yet it is constantly being re-invented, and challenging our perceptions.
First of all, think of how it’s played, Every artist in every genre brings something new to the instrument: from Glenn Gould humming to himself while interpreting Bach, to jazz legend Thelonious Monk seemingly banging out notes from between the keys, to Jerry Lee Lewis dragging the instrument into rock’n’roll by kicking the keys into submission. These days, musical artists lay rocks and wood on the strings, or carefully fill the instrument with water to create unheard of sounds.
But it’s not just how it’s played that makes us think of the piano in different ways. We already know about a piano being dragged into the Thai jungle to soothe the wounded souls of elephants. But pianos show up in all kinds of other strange places too: on the Great Wall of China, in the middle of the Sahara desert, on a mountain peak at 13,800 feet above sea level in the Swiss Alps, in ice caves, and beyond.
Eventually, pianos outlive their usefulness as musical instruments. But that hasn’t stopped a new trend from developing as people have started upcycling old pianos into bars, libraries, kitchen islands and more.
In music and beyond, the piano is a living symbol of endless creativity.