For as long as I can remember, my dad has always enjoyed watching musical performances on television. He loved everything from the popular Spanish language variety show, Siempre en Domingo, to the Lawrence Welk Show. They all made me cringe! I enjoyed the performers and their music; however, there was something about watching recorded programming that bothered me.
By Susana Porras
Growing up, I listened to the radio, or records on occasion. I tried headphones, boom boxes, speakers, ear buds but ultimately, something always fell short. It was like looking at a print of a real painting. No matter how good the recording was, it wasn’t the real thing.
Music is special because of the performer-audience exchange. You can watch some of the most iconic concerts in recent history – the 2008 Prince at Coachella, the 1968 Elvis Comeback Special, the 1992 Nirvana at Reading Festival, and the 1969 Johnny Cash at San Quentin – and as incredible as they are to watch on your full HD flat-screen 40-inch TV, you can’t help but wonder what the audience and the performer experienced that day. The energy, the sound, and the sheer unpredictability of the live performance is unparalleled.
We didn’t always have recorded music; there was a time when people entertained their guests with the grandest of instruments and the most melodic of voices in their modest homes. Some of the biggest stars we know today have come from humble beginnings: Ray Charles, Dolly Parton, Louis Armstrong. So, how is it that we have strayed so far from the desire to create our own music and lost interest in listening to the real thing? It isn’t realistic to think that everyone can afford the coveted $500 concert ticket. Nevertheless, I can say with all honesty that some of the best musical performances I’ve experienced have been in some unknown hole in the wall while roaming in the middle of nowhere. Excellent music happens everywhere.
A piano on a wagon
David Cutter is a passionate piano teacher in Pasadena, who believes as much in the quality of the instrument as the skill of the performer. I’ve never met someone more dedicated to the advancement of the art of piano playing and the promotion of this acoustic instrument. Imagine, for a moment, a 400-pound wooden console piano, propped up on a two-wheel custom-built wagon, rigged to an electric bike, powered by a made-to-order battery. That is exactly what you will see squeaking down one of the boulevards in Pasadena. Round and round the wheels go, where he’ll stop, no one knows…except for the first Sunday of the month.
David is a fixture at the Pasadena City College flea market where he delights bargain hunters and passers-by with Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. No tip jar, no gimmicks, no social media, just the simple pleasure of sharing the gift of music with the world.
Why doesn’t he use a digital keyboard like everyone else? They are convenient, portable, always in tune, and they even come with some pretty snazzy sound effects! The answer is simple: It isn’t the real thing. An acoustic piano allows the performer an intimate connection with the tone of the piano through the art of wrist motion, and the listener gets to experience the sound of the piano that the performer creates. It’s more real and that makes for a higher quality of experience. The piano captures the slightest expression and qualitative uniqueness of the player as it responds to even the faintest difference in playing styles. The sound is delightful, and the tone is perfect.
The right amount of sound
The piano projects just the right amount of sound to enjoy whether you are walking by, chatting with a friend, or stopping to listen. The surrounding buildings act as sound boards and carry the melody quite a distance. The piano and its master fit in seamlessly on the grass under the clear blue skies, surrounded by trees. It is so natural, in fact, it almost goes unnoticed.
The piano is not just an instrument but a thread that connects us all with a tune that we learned or heard long ago, and if we had a chance to learn to read music, that simple lesson remains within us forever. Chopsticks, Greensleeves, or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star are some favorites that are shared at the spur of the moment when we sit or stand in front of the PIANO. Always take a moment to listen, play, or just watch someone tickling those ivories.
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