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Piano on the pier, Jun 2011 - 52 | by Ed Yourdon
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Piano on the pier, Jun 2011 - 52

Another couple, another dog. In the background is the New Jersey shoreline...


Note: this photo was published in a Feb 6, 2012 blog titled "25 Great Date Ideas for You and Your Man." And it was published in a Jul 2, 2012 blog titled "Education, wealth and the place you live can affect your weight."


Moving into 2013, the photo was published in an Aug 31, 2013 Austin Music Photos blog with the same title and detailed notes that I had written on this Flickr page.


Moving into 2014, the photo was published in a Sep 30, 2014 blog titled "The 15 Best Cities For Couples." It was also published in a Dec 31, 2014 blog titled "Paying Off Your Partner's Debt Is Almost Always A Bad Idea."




A few years ago, British artist Luke Jerram came up with the intriguing idea of spreading pianos around the city, with an open invitation for anyone nearby to wander up and begin playing something. Anything. He started in London, and subsequently brought his festival (known as "Play Me, I'm Yours") to some 19 cities around the world -- including Moscow, Sydney, São Paulo, Barcelona, Bristol, Bath, Birmingham, Cincinnati, San Jose, and Pécs -- before coming to New York City in June 2010. Sixty pianos were donated, painted, and "installed" throughout the five boroughs of New York; and over a period of two weeks, I managed to visit every single one of them (except for two pianos in Queens, which had been vandalized and removed before I could get to them) and photographed them all in this Flickr set.


I had such a good time with the New York pianos that I checked Luke's website periodically to see what plans he had for 2011. In addition to plans for Geneva, Adelaide, and other places, he scheduled a festival in Austin, TX for the month of April, details of which you can see at this Internet site. There were only 14 pianos in Austin, many located along the river that runs through the center of the city. As with New York, roughly 2/3 of them were sitting empty and alone when I got to them -- so there were only five pianos where I could actually listen to people playing music. For each of those five, I made video recordings; you can find them on this Internet site.


I wondered whether Luke would be bringing his piano festival back to New York again in 2011, but a different group decided to jump in first, with a somewhat more ambitious project: instead of 60 pianos, they placed 88 pianos around the city. The project is called "Sing for Hope"; it acknowledges that it was inspired by Luke Jerram, and it claims to be the "world's largest street piano installation to date, and is expected to reach over two million people."


The project's web site has a map showing where all 88 pianos have been placed, and I decided immediately that it was far more than I could hope to tackle. Sixty pianos last year was hard enough; and this year, there are a dozen just in Staten Island alone, not to mention the dozens of other ones scattered throughout Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. Sheesh! So, at least for now, I've limited my visits to a single piano -- one that's located fairly close to where I live, and one that I remember from last year's festival as being quite picturesque, located at the end of a pier that extends out into the Hudson River, at 70th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.


Obviously, the pier was not built as a showcase for the "Sing for Hope" piano; it was actually constructed by Donald Trump's real-estate empire back in 2000, on top of an old wooden pier that was built a century ago when freighters and barges unloaded their cargo all along the west side of Manhattan. When shipping faded in the 1950s and a couple major railroads collapsed into bankruptcy, the pier fell into disuse and decay; it was further damaged by a massive fire in 1971. I remember jogging all the way out to the end of the pier in the mid-70s when I lived on Riverside Drive, wondering each time whether I was going to run onto a rotting plank and descend into the river below, never to be heard from again... But all of that was a long time ago, and now that the new pier is here for everyone to enjoy, nobody remembers the history.


So ... this Flickr set contains some photos of the piano in its dedicated spot, as well as a few short video clips of various New Yorkers playing whatever music appeals to them. There were lots of other New Yorkers, and perhaps a few visitors and tourists, who had no interest in the piano, but who just wanted to enjoy the weather and the terrific view up and down the river; I photographed some of them too. Out in the river, there were barges and tugboats, kayaks and jet-skis, sailboats and yachts ... and two of the most amazing boats I've ever seen, flying an American flag together with an enormous "Gay Pride" flag that looked big enough to wrap around the entire boat.


Altogether, it was a great way to spend a couple hours on a warm Sunday afternoon. And these photos will be uploaded over a three-day holiday weekend when there will be an even better excuse to hustle down to the pier to spend a few hours: the annual Fourth of July fireworks display. If you're down there, look around for a crazy guy with a camera: it might be me.

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Taken on July 1, 2011