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Sound Scripts

Sound Scripts

Article Title

The Well Weathered Piano: A Study in Ruin

Authors

Ross Bolleter

Abstract

The only unchanging law is the law of change. Ruins are what remain. A piano judiciously left in the open and exposed to all weathers will ruin. All that fine nineteenth-century European craftsmanship, all the damp and unrequited loves of Schumann, Brahms and Chopin dry out, and degrade to a heap of rotten wood and rusting wire. The piano returns to aboriginality, goes back to the earth. Plucking the bass strings on an ancient weathered piano whose sound board is cracked wide open can produce astonishing pitch bends, then cataclysmic shuddering. Sounds which would be suppressed in conventional performance are given full rein. When those arch symbols of European musical culture and cultural imperialism linger as Ruined Pianos, they sing of transience, failure and loss. They sing of all that we loved that will never come again—the loss of home, the fading away of prestige and glory. They sing the chaos at the heart of the colonial enterprise, an Australian expression of the heart of darkness—the dark heart howling its cracked anthems.

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