alfresco pianos

by pieces of moments

Seems like accessibility to instruments has been on the decline. Music programs are being cut in schools. Families don’t have the money to fork out for thousands of dollars of music equipment. The number of pianos in households gets lower and lower.

Well, at least if you are in London this summer you can find one (through July 13)…just check your local park, or library, or square.

Play Me I’m Yours is an interactive art installation by artist Luke Jerram. I have always found it odd that the “classical” music world wants to supposedly reach out to the general public,  yet their attempts are usually confined to school groups or “special” outreach concerts. You are either in those locations deemed worthy by the institutions or you are out of luck, kid. Check out this photo someone posted to the Play Me I’m Yours website. That’s exactly the way I like to think about music, especially “classical” music: it’s just another part of life, like walking on the sidewalk, or eating lunch.

Photo Credit_Pianoman

London has not been the only venue for this installation. Last year Sao Paulo, Brazil was host. On the website it notes:

“With the support of a special ‘Streetpianos’ charitable fund, 13 pianos were distributed across the city of Sao Paulo. At £1,000 each (a years wage for some people) many people had never seen a real piano before, let alone been given permission to play one.”

Did you check that? “…many people had never seen a real piano before, let alone been given permission to play one.” You’ve seen those signs on pianos in public places that verbally slap your hand with “please don’t touch.” Not to be nit-picky here…but what message is that sending constantly but that this is only for professionals, you are not a professional, therefore this is not for you.


Read this letter (on Jerram’s website) from a resident of Sao Paulo:

Hello Luke,

First off I would like to thank you for bringing your project “Play Me, I’m Yours” to my city, São Paulo. You have no idea of the positive impact it has been causing in our community. Everyday I catch the subway at Estacao da Luz, where one of your pianos is located. This is a very busy hectic place, where most of the people  are coming from or going to work in a fast pace so typical of a megalopolis. It amazes me the power of the instrument, the magnetism that it generates among people. And I must say that 99% of the people who actually stop to check it out don’t have access to culture or are not used to have culture and beauty being brought to them.

I believe we have to take art out of its common venues and make it more public, more accessible. Besides bringing beauty and inspiration to people, your pianos ignite a reflexion on how we use the public space, how passive or active is our relationship with the space we share. I usually wait for a co worker right next to the piano, and as she is always late, I have the chance to observe people’s reactions. I’ve seen people walking by and coming back to listen to somebody play, I’ve seen people calling dear ones from their cell phones to share the music with them, I’ve seen an ice cream vendor crying after listening to a song, I’ve seen a couple dancing, I’ve seen 2 blind guys with the subway employee (in charge of guiding them) sitting down and taking their time to appreciate the music, I’ve seen children in total ecstasy jumping around while an old man played a famous Vivaldi piece (from a perfume ad here in Brazil).

This is the future. The democratization of art. The quality of the music is indifferent, the proposal of the installation is everything. Those beautiful pianos are self-esteem boosters for the everyday worker, who doesn’t have access to this kind of stuff not even on weekends.Pianos here are often are considered as “rich class” instruments, unlike the acoustic guitar or drums.

I can feel the respect they have for the instrument, I’ve seen people caressing it gently, admiring the keys, the shape, all its contours…

Thanks again! You brought slices of magic to us all!!!

Best Regards


Music needs to spill out of concert halls. It needs to somehow make its way out. Music is invisible, and yet we contain it like historical documents trapped fancy boxes. New “alternative” locations are great, but still cater to a some what specified crowd if at least more diverse. If we really mean music is for all, what actions will we take to make it be more than a pretty speech that makes us feel better?

Check out the action on the streets: