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By Joseph Dempsey A Requiem for Tunes

Sunday, September 28, 2008

To music lovers, seeing the sorry plight of this instrument is like fingernails across a chalkboard. To the former piano student who long ago despised the idea and the instrument, and still does, the sight may well stir up thoughts of poetic justice. Regardless of your views, the scorned and abused piano does stir up some searing questions.

What was the last tune coaxed from its innards before it was summarily sentenced to a slow and painful death? The search for an answer might begin in the building behind the piano. Since we don’t know how the building was last used before being abandoned and boarded, a wild guess is probably our best bet.

If you study the details of the picture, you’ll notice a specific genre of siding popular in the late forties and early fifties, to wit: asbestos siding, as evidenced by the serrated finish of the siding segments. That was well before asbestos fell from grace, so we can be reasonably certain the structure was built in the booming years after the end of World War II.

Most buildings, if not held in perpetuity by their original owners for the original purpose, will be used for a variety of different and sometimes diametrically opposed uses. Most of us have seen more than one church converted to a bar. Some conversions are more benign. The barbershop where my teenage locks were regularly shorn, just a few blocks from this building, is now an office for a used car lot. The trimming continues at that structure.

Regardless of how the building started, in the South of the USA many buildings the size of this one — it’s big — spend their final days as one of several species of honky-tonks. So, our detective work raises the supposition that the last melodies were probably not “Amazing Grace” or “Just as I Am.”

There is some evidence that the piano was seriously used. Look on the top toward the treble end, and you will see an old music folder. Had my wits been about me when I shot the image, I would have looked in the folder. Problem was, I did not want to delay my egress from the neighborhood any longer than necessary.

Perhaps, when the piano was moved outside, the building became an informal neighborhood entertainment center, which may explain the chair. If so, perhaps the old piano brought a few more moments of joy to human ears. I didn’t knock on any doors to find out.

As for the missing front, methinks it may have been purloined and recycled as a table. Or worse, ripped into bed slats. In either case, an ignominious end was guaranteed after the front panel was strategically relocated. The hammers and playing mechanisms are simply too tempting to the miscreants who thrive on vandalism. Like many forlorn and neglected things we see today, we don’t like it — and it’s too late to do anything about it. But it’s important that we notice. It keeps us in touch with reality.

the keyboard

N O T E S:  
Nikon D200 / Tamron SP 24-135 zoom fo piano on tripod / AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f2.8D for detail / Post processed with Photoshop CS3 Extended and Genuine Fractals Print Pro.

See the entire building, plus a couple of barns shot on the same trip, on our Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind blog

Click the jump wings
to see the previous
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weekly grist

Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog.  — J. D.


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