Please Play: Museums & Random Acts of Public Music

9 comments

  1. Lunchtime singalongs at the Museum are the best! We’re hoping to do another one soon!

    • Awesome! Let me know when you do another one (not that you want me singing or anything). I heard that there were more than 70 people at the pop-up concert this past Friday, and that a jazz group from PSU might be performing this coming Friday (FREE Friday).

  2. Great post Mike! Love the thought of pianos in the and around the art museum. A new park across the street from the Dallas Museum of Art has pianos out like this occasionally.

    Maggie – can you tell me more about your singalongs? What and where do you sing?

  3. Rachel Ropeik

    On a recent flight out of JFK airport, I was waiting in line at my gate to have my final security check and saw two things that made me smile (a rare thing at JFK, which—though I love airports passionately—is mighty short on charm). One was an elaborate self-serve automated coffee kiosk that let you choose what coffee drink you wanted, what milk, what preparation, etc, all in automated form.

    The other was a piano inviting people to play it.

    I’m not a pianist myself, and while I was waiting in line, no one stopped to play the instrument, but even just its presence and the potential of music in that space full of people’s anxiety and impatience and anticipation was calming and lovely.

    Random public music is always a win.

    • Rachel — I agree that just the presence of the piano adds a certain amount of playfulness and creativity to the surrounding environment (if it is open to being played). Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the potential for participation versus actual participation — should be be measuring the value of a project based on how many people participate, or is there some type of attitudinal or perception shift occurring with people who simply observe a participatory experience but choose to remain a passive observer, non-participant? How much actual active participation does there need to be for non-participants to get a sense of playfulness and fun through just observing?

  4. There’s a gorgeous restored baby grand piano in the museum where I work. Most days, it hangs out near a freight elevator all covered up. It gets some attention occasionally during the music series we host but not as much as it should. I’d love if it could be out in the open and visitors were encouraged to play it, but there’s so much fear about whether it would be damaged.

    • The projects I mention above are all about outside organizations/projects bringing pianos to museums, but it would be awesome if a museum was the generator of such an experience. With that said, there is quite an extreme amount of wear and tear that occurs with a public “street” piano — they require tunings and maintenance almost weekly (if not more frequently), and the potential for damage is definitely there. So not sure a beautiful baby grand piano is the best option, but there is always an old upright pianos in someone’s garage that could be activated in a new way. One of my favorite parts of these piano projects was when a museum would have an artist ‘decorate’ it (while we did not do this, I would love to think about this in the future).
      You should think about having a “pop-up staff piano concert” sometime, and bring out the musicians inside the museum. Could be really fun!

  5. I wanted to quickly share the link to a recent story in the Oregonian about Piano Push Play at the Portland Art Museum, including some video of people playing and some great photos. Check it out: http://www.oregonlive.com/living/index.ssf/2013/08/piano_push_play_brings_music_t.html

  6. Pingback: Three Tips for Producing High Impact Museum Programming for ESL Learners | Field of Work

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