Friday, 26 June 2009


From a desolate, deserted street, I heard a tuneful barking....

Skulking amongst the debris that had been Liverpool Street Station I came across a feral piano, battered, patched, weathered. Pianos were once kept as pets by the pre-Recession super-rich; pampered, tuned, entered in prize shows. Only the finest scores would do. Now the survivors roam the streets unchecked, searching for scraps of music amongst the rubble and litter.
I spotted another piano here in Devonshire Court. These are hardened beasts, evolved beyond the pretty creatures of their heyday - observe their weatherproof shells. Should you find yourself in a close encounter with one, stay calm. Resist the urge to run. Approach very slowly - let them see you coming - and play something gentle and soothing. Singing is also recommended.

It's a piano-eat-piano world out there - this specimen had come off worst in a fight, and so dragged itself into a corner of St. Paul's Churchyard to lick it's wounds. The piano itself survived but the stool will eventually die - and there's no guarantee that a new one will sprout.
I found this piano scratching out an existence beneath the Gurkhin, a pre-Recession henge or monument to the glass god. Standing out in the open, it had lost any fear of humanity and did not shy away as I approached to play it.I understand pianos. Abandoned by my parents in a musical instrument warehouse as a helpless babe, I was raised by a Knight upright and a Clavinova. Pianos are conservative at heart. The leader of the tribe, a Bosendorfer, wanted me thrown to the howling strings but a sympathetic glockenspiel intervened on my behalf and taught me the laws of music. To this day I still dream in blues scales. But when I discovered the secret of rock and roll I knew I had crossed the line that separates man from keyboard instrument, and I went out into the world in search of my own kind.The range of colourful markings on these feral pianos may represent a new, disturbing evolution: tribalism. Alternately they may be a form of camouflage - this piano has taken on elements from the surroundings of Leadenhall Market. Feral adaptation is a sign: life will find a way.

Pianos featured are part of Luke Jerram's streetpianos project which can be found across London from now until July 13th. Photos are my own.

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