Entropy And The ‘Piano-Shaped Object’

This former practice piano sits beneath the towering maples and hemlocks behind the Orwig Music Building, slowly becoming one with the universe. Prior to the intervention of Ph.D. candidate Devanney Haruta, the Brown University Music Department had it slated for a trip to the dump, but inspired by Australian composer Ross Bolleter’s work with “ruined pianos,” Haruta suggested an installation in which the elements could be allowed to reclaim the instrument, giving it a second act as a piece of art.

The aging Baldwin was set outside last February when the weather immediately began its assault, but creative types were soon experimenting with the sonic novelty of the decaying instrument. Katie Landeck writes in the Providence Journal:

On day 33, students placed rocks on the strings, adding a metallic twang that a piano could never otherwise make. On day 81, a sunny day in May, Haruta hosted a piano picnic at the sliver of woods between Brown University’s Orwig Music Building and Hope Street, where the piano sits. Eight students performed on the piano, improvising short pieces, turning it into a percussive instrument and even using a massager on the strings to create a haunting sound.

On day 231, Rhode Island School of Design student Amy Sabpisal visited the piano. After a summer of rain, the lid was bowed in multiple places. The black keys had fallen off, revealing the wood beneath. The veneer had lifted. “It’s turning into a tree again,” she told Haruta.

A nearby sign with Qr code explains: This piano is open to the elements. As its materials gradually weather in the rain, snow, sun, and air, its sound will change over time. Visitors are invited to play the piano respectfully.

Suggested noodling: Purple Rain, Bird on the Wire, Let It Snow, Kitten on the Keys. (At some point, the piano will be limited to/perfect for the John Cage four thirty-three.)

Haruta graduates in 2026 by which time the piano will have spent roughly 800 days outdoors. We will keep reporting on the installation. And hooray for keeping grand pianos out of the landfill!

Go to the Piano de(composition) Archive for some wonderful videos documenting the above-mentioned piano events. In the beginning, the piano still had its black keys. They are now gone. Where did the they go? (And yes, there will be cat.)

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The Orwig Music Building has an address on Young Orchard Avenue but this installation is most easily accessed on Hope Street between Young Orchard and Benevolent Street. Walk up the stairs, and along the path another 20 feet, then look to your right.

 

1 thought on “Entropy And The ‘Piano-Shaped Object’”

  1. That’s wonderful
    As a career musician I totally agree that music is about creativity. Anything can be music if you are creative.
    Thanks for sharing

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