Monday, October 18, 2010

The New Piano

Although I gave up my mother's grand piano two years ago, for various good reasons, including the fact that my condo was just too small for it, I have been greatly missing having a piano. So starting this past summer I've been looking for an upright piano that I could afford, and that would fit well into my space. Two weeks ago I found one.

I have a piano!

It's a Hallet, Davis & Co. spinet, probably manufactured 50 to 70 years ago. The person I bought it from said it had been her mother's piano, and had been in the family for a long time. She had inherited it, and her daughter had taken lessons for awhile. But for the past few years it had been sitting unused. She wanted it go to a good home. When I went over there to look it over, play it, and check it out, I was impressed. The piano had obviously been well cared for many years, although it has been sleeping for the past few years. It probably hasn't been tuned in ten years. All things considered, though, the felts were in good shape, the harp looked fine, and gave a good loud sound. And although it was out of tune, it wasn't so badly out of tune as to be painful.

In a few days, the piano tuner will be here to look it over, tune it, and make recommendations. I suspect it will need a few minor repairs. I had the piano moved by professionals, and although they took good care, any time you move a piano, it will go more out of tune, and it has. I suspect the inside surfaces will need cleaning and some love and attention. Usually you only have to tune a piano once or twice a year, but I suspect I'll have to tune it at least three times in the first year of owning it. I suspect that it will have to be tuned at least twice in the space of a couple of months before it holds the tuning well; that too is typical of a piano after it's been moved, and as it adjusts to the temperature and humidity of its new home. It takes time to settle in.

I don't care. I'm very happy to have a piano. I found and purchased and moved this piano well within my planned budget, and the piano tuning will still be within budget. It took me several months of hunting to find a suitable piano. Getting this piano was like one of those moments when everything lines up and what is supposed to happen suddenly does. It was sudden and effortless, almost shockingly quick. After several unsuccessful adventures, this all happened immediately, within days, no problem, no mess, no fuss. Like it was meant to happen. And now I have a piano!

Even though it's not tuned yet, I can't resist sitting down and playing some. I've run through chords and scales, and played a few memorized pieces from the past. And I've sat down and improvised a few times. Just to get a feel for it. Even though it's not tuned yet, I can't resist posting a short improv piece recorded late one night. Sort of a triumphal fanfare expressing my happiness at having a piano. I have a piano! Yes, it's out of tune; yes, its' probably unlistenable crap, and I make no pretensions that this is even musical, it's just an étude, a little whim to express what I was feeling. (Sorry about the breathing sounds; I've a cold, and the mic picks up everything in the room.)

New Piano Etude    

Okay, let's face it: it's crap. It's not even musical. And it's out of tune. But I can't help it. I have a piano!

And just for fun, since we can, we'll run that same track through some processors, derange it a little, and subject it to granular synthesis algorithms. Who knows: maybe it will make it sound even better!

New Piano Etude GS    

Or not.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

It's a funny-looking thing. Never seen an upright like that before. As for the étude - it's truly awful. I also miss having a keyboard but I really have no place for one.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Spinets are a pretty common form of upright, at least here. They're apartment-friendly pianos. I wouldn't have a full wall I could give over to a full-size upright.

When I was in music school, most of the practice rooms had spinets, or small uprights, or grands. The best spinets in the practice rooms were the Baldwins—really sensitive action, really a joy to play. Of course, the practice rooms were never totally soundproof, so it was never totally quiet in there.

Most people just pound their pianos as loud as possible. I like very quiet music, too. Satie and Mompou were always favorites.

11:09 AM  
Blogger me said...

(Dedicated to your mother Art and my grandmother)

fine tuning river of memories
transparent fingertips galloping
meadow piano

2:05 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thank you!

That's extremely lovely and moving for me, and I'm sure my mother would thank you, too.

3:51 PM  

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