Throwing Away Pianos: NOT Music to My Ears

When you think of all of the iconic masterpieces that have come from the piano-Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, its hard to imagine anyone ever being unkind to this graceful instrument that they would want to make its last note a smash on the floor and the crushing sound of a back-hoe clawing away at its last tone.

piano 1

Pianos have provided the basis for so much of modern day’s music that its hard to either hear a song without piano accompaniment or at least hear a song that has not in some way borrowed chords or verses from piano scores. Having been an instrumentalist myself for nearly 10 years, I understand the blood (well, maybe), sweat and tears that go into practicing a musical instrument in preparation for performances. Pianos are witness to this labor of love but they also help bring harmony, joy, darkness, or even sadness into our lives. You pick the emotion, a piano can re-create it for you.

The journalist in me sees the obvious similarities between the piano and the news business. Just like a journalist sits in front of a computer screen typing a story, a piano player sits in front of their instrument and uses their hands to press keys that will also tell a story. A musical story has a beginning, middle and end just like a news story has. A lead, a nut graf, a scene, and a conclusion. It’s all the same, the only thing that is different is how the story is told.

Why, then, would someone, let along countless others, want to throw away these instruments that bring so much vibrancy and feeling into this world? Why would a piano player not want to seek out a new home for the piano rather than reducing it to rubble? The New York Times published a piece in July 2012 about the plight of pianos and how more and more people are turning to the junkyard to solve their problems of where to put an unwanted piano. The piece did an adequate job of explaining the WHAT: more pianos are being thrown away and its an unfortunate epidemic. What the piece did not do well with conveying, in my opinion, is the WHO and the WHY.

Who are these people who throw pianos away for no reason? They aren’t represented in the text piece or in the three-minute video that supplements the piece. The video’s strong suite is showing us what throwing a piano away looks like and what happens to them once they arrive at a junkyard. But characters, the people who are actually throwing the pianos away, are absent from the video. We don’t get to learn what their reasoning is for doing something so disrespectful to the music industry. And because this pertinent information is unknown, readers are left with too many questions about what exactly is going on with the epidemic of throwing pianos away and how we can work to stop it.

piano 2

The text piece does explain what some of the reasons are for why people may throw away their pianos and a couple of reasons why its starting to become a common practice. But I still didn’t get a sense that I actually heard a real reason for why you should throw a piano out. The reporter interviewed experts and owners of piano companies and restoration companies who restore pianos, but a lot of what these folks did was speculate. I would have liked to hear from a piano owner who actually made this decision who might have a completely different rationale than what was discussed in the story.

Besides this, the ending did nothing to underscore the unfortunate nature of this epidemic. Writing that “the guys enjoy it,” referring to the workers who push the pianos off the backs of trucks, I found this to be a biased ending or at least an ending that was not thought out well enough. By ending the piece on a note like this, quoting this man who says they guys enjoy destroying the pianos, I get the impression that the reporter is trying to relay that this is his opinion of what should be done.

Had he quoted a piano owner who is throwing out their piano and said someone like “I think its ok to throw mine away,” I think that would have essentially been a better ending because it is said in someone else’s words. The actual ending sounds like the reporter is trying to get across his observation that he made and got a source to confirm, and it sounds like this is the side that he wants readers to choose.

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