As a child, I took piano exams in over-sized white rooms, on baby grand pianos that felt unfamiliar and echoed strangely as someone across the room observed me in silence. It felt clinical, intimidating and completely devoid of warmth. Last week, I started noticing upright pianos, some painted haphazardly, others respectfully untouched plonked in the most unlikely places throughout Sydney. There was one on the edge of the baby pool at the local swimming pool, with a young girl in a rainbow striped dress tapping out a happy but disjointed melody; another shaded under a tree at the park on the way home.
Even though I was too shy to sit down and play something (most had some kind of written invitation on them: Play Me, I’m Yours), I loved them for their idiosyncrasy and their ability to interrupt the defined uses of a space. It turns out they are part of a Sydney Festival initiative, with 30 street pianos scattered all round the city, from bus shelters to tattoo parlours, ferries and pools.
Even sweeter still, encountering a misplaced instrument is not the end point of the project. The website invites finders and onlookers to decorate the piano however they feel and record their decorations or performances digitally, to be published on the site: a documentation of each piano’s experience in the city.