As the sun begins its descent for the day, a college couple sits at the black wooden piano temporarily residing in front of the Berklee Bookstore on Boylston. The piano is adorned with a palette of natural colors. In perfect cursive and with a soft violet paint, it says, Play me I’m yours. With dark brown hair and scruff to match it, the guy looks very in his element as his fingers glide across the keys. His girlfriend sits cozily next to him with her hair in a loose ponytail as she sings along with him to the beginning of "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen.
Several blocks later on the other side of the Massachusetts Turnpike, the sky is pinky orange. A middle class family examines a lonesome piano strategically covered in green in attempts of blending in with the fake hedges behind it. “This is the third one I’ve seen,” one of the ladies says. The father and two daughters are hesitant as they approach the bench. “Come on Sammy, you have to try one song,” he says. The young girl shakes her head. “Not even one?” he nudges. She bashfully cocks her head back with a smile of embarrassment so he moves forward to set the example. "Imagine" by John Legend. A few lines in, his fingers slip but he laughs it off. His younger daughter smiles and pokes at some keys, exploring the pure sounds of a musical world.
These two pianos are amongst the 75 that are visiting the Boston area from September 27th to October 14th. The urbanites who tirelessly adhere to their daily schedules, coworkers, classmates, and kids will stray from their routine as they see and hear the phenomenon that Luke Jerram has produced.
After observing the same people going in and out of his local Laundromat week after week, exchanging nothing but a quick glance or so, Jerram decided he wanted to break the silence –not only in the Laundromat but in all “invisible communities” alike. “Placing a piano into the space was my solution to this problem, acting as a catalyst for conversation and changing the dynamics of a space,” he said.
Today, Jerram has placed pianos in over 41 cities, reaching an estimate of 5 million people. In fact the 1000th piano was placed right here in Boston.
At 174 Newbury St., the sun is deep into the earth and the area is lit with black lampposts and Christmas lights wrapped around trees. A white piano with a contemporary design poses for a woman who is photographing the scene. Her name is Magdalena Taber, and she is a local freelance artist who designed the piano sitting four blocks up at 320 Newberry St. She talks about how interactive the art of the pianos is. As Taber admittedly “camps out “ by her piano, she observes how it stimulates the public. “Music is such a powerful instigator…putting you in a different time zone or state of mind” she comments.
An impetus of interaction starts in these quaint corners of Boston with the presence of a piano, embellished with artistic love. Daily routines get delightfully interrupted. People of diverse background are united, perhaps not by words but by notes or colors. The hope is that the impact will live on even after the pianos are removed.
Here on campus, we can’t deny the fact that these “invisible communities” exist. As a freshman coming down from Upper, it’s more than likely that I pass the same few people every Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesdays andThursdays who have dreadful 9 AM classes as well. Pressed for time, and lacking the desire to communicate with anyone so early in the morning, I often plug in my white ear buds and walk straight to class. Yes, I’m one of those.
So like almost all communities, we have this problem.
Perhaps a piano could solve it.Featured Image via The Gavel.