A Musical Experiment in Public Space

This piece looks at a public art project that placed 30 pianos in public places throughout London in an effort to encourage more public interaction.

The project cost the city about $22,000, including the price of a piano tuner who rode around town on a bicycle to maintain the instruments.

"The biggest obstacle was the city's tangled, multilayered bureaucracy, which required him to obtain a separate music license for each location. He used old, unwanted pianos that people had "chucked out," he said - in contrast to São Paolo, where pianos are scarce and so precious that they cost a year's salary. There, some people traveled for hours just to have the chance to play.

The pianos, which are secured to the ground with metal cables and have plastic covers in case of rain, have proved a huge hit. All of them are still there - outside the Natural History Museum, on Portobello Road, in Leicester Square and in the churchyard of St. Paul's Cathedral, among other spots. None has been vandalized. People have tended to relinquish their places courteously after a while to allow others to perform."

Full Story: All Around London, an Invitation to Make Music

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