A few weeks ago Andrew Taylor wrote about ‘a different kind of cultural infrastructure’ – 30 pianos in public places across London. You can read more about the project here . It sounds really exciting and democratising of both music and public space.
But I was talking recently to some friends of mine who live very close to one of the pianos in central London and they had a slightly different take, which also says something about ‘excellence’ I think. Although they really liked the pianos, and the way they were used, mainly by people with some talent or skill, as well as those just playing around, the locks which close the pianos at 11pm, so local residents can get some sleep, had been broken off, leading to late night and early renditions – not so welcome.
What was interesting was that they found the people bashing out great renditions of Beethoven at 4am more disturbing than the passing drunks just making noise. This leads me to think that the power to capture our attention, be un-ignorable and to unsettle is a really important element of artistic excellence. Which may be one reason it’s not always welcome or appropriate for some people, at certain times and places. Suggesting great art may be for everyone but not all the time.
(When I walked past their local piano later it was locked up, so I can't vouch for the sound, but it was certainly beautiful to look at.)