Play Me, I’m Yours, Day 6 – Jun 30, 2010 – 18

Play Me, I’m Yours, Day 6 – Jun 30, 2010 – 18
guy gets girl
Image by Ed Yourdon
About two blocks east, there was another piano at Willoughby Square. It turned out that Andrew Mancilla had made his way independently from Brooklyn Bridge Park up to this piano, so I took some more photos of him here…

Note: the photo was also published in an undated (Oct 2010) blog titled "Guy Gets Girl – Tips On Attracting Women."

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On the 6th day of the "Play Me, I’m Yours" project, I tackled the borough of Brooklyn — starting at the Brooklyn Bridge Park, down at the edge of the East River, looking across to the southern tip of Manhattan — and the Statue of Liberty in the background. I spent some time watching an aspiring young concert pianist named Andrew Mancilla playing some tunes, before the piano was taken over by a couple of young children

From there, I hiked back up the hill to Boro Hall and Cadman Plaza, where I found my second piano; and then a couple blocks east to Willoughby Plaza (just a couple blocks away from the old Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, now renamed New York Polytechnic) for piano #3. Andrew Mancilla appeared again, and I listened to his music for a while…

Then, being woefully ignorant of the bus/subway system in Brooklyn, I took a gypsy cab to Ft. Greene Park, where I found one piano in the entrance to the park, and another one at the top of the hill where the Visitor’s Center sits.

From there, it was on to Grand Army Plaza, where I found a piano tucked away at the edge of the massive monument that mimics the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I then walked several blocks down Flatbush Avenue, past the Brooklyn Zoo, to find the carousel, where another piano sat by its lonely self, ignored by everyone.

The next stop was the Herber Von King Park, somewhere in the middle of the borough, where I found a vandalized piano sitting at the base of of an outdoor theater for community affairs; one of the stage hands was busy painting some sets for a play, and shrugged when I asked her who had done the damage.

Next came McCarren Park, up in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, where I found a bright yellow piano being played energetically by a pierced and tattooed young woman who spoke little or no English when I asked her a few questions. Her place was then taken over by a couple of local fellows, one of whom brought along some bongo drums to accompany his pianist friend.

After a quick lunch in a bar at the corner of the park (which included the biggest, tastiest, and most filling BLT sandwich I have ever had), I took a taxi down to Coney Island and walked out on the boardwalk to find my final piano. A man by the name of John Rotante was playing a number of popular tunes; he told me that he sells Volvos by day, and plays the piano by night. If you want to hire him, his email address is pianostylist@aol.com and his website is www.pianostylist.com.

When it was all over, I trudged over to the subway stop at Stillwell Avenue, and took the long ride back into Manhattan on the F train. All in all, it was a day well spent…

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A few years ago, a British artist by the name of 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. First it was London, and now it’s here in New York City.

Starting on June 21st, sixty pianos have been donated, painted, and "installed" throughout the five boroughs of New York; you can see the locations here. I managed to visit seven of the pianos on the first day, and another seven on the second day. The program will only be running for two weeks, and I’ll be out of town for at least a few of those days … so it won’t be easy, but my goal is to track down, visit, and photograph all 60 pianos by the time it’s over. Even the one at the Staten Island Zoo, and the one located somewhere in the Joyce Kilmer Park up in the Bronx.

Aside from the logistics of getting to these remote corners of the five boroughs, it sounds like a straightforward task: ride a subway train to the appropriate stop, walk a block or two, take photograph or two, and then go back where you came from. But it’s turning out to be a little more difficult than I had thought, partly because the maps provided on the Web site are somewhat ambiguous and imprecise, and partly because the officials (e.g., guards, cops, grounds-keepers, etc.) whom you would expect to know about such things have been remarkably clueless.

I’ve also been hearing rumors that some of the pianos are being moved around between one day and the next. That might explain why I had to abandon today’s plan to photograph the piano in Bryant Park: after circling the park and the adjoining New York Public Library a couple of times, I concluded they had either hidden the piano, or moved into a subterranean cell.

As for the pianos I’ve found, the experiences have been quite varied. Some of the pianos sit mute and abandoned — including, oddly enough, the very fist piano in Times Square, which had been plunked down at Seventh Avenue and 44th Street, and basically ignored by everyone. The same was true of one of the pianos situated in a hard-to-find corner of Lincoln Center, as well as a piano ostensibly located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — which turned out to be sitting next to the giant obelisk behind the museum, and on the far side of the inner park roadway.

As for the pianos that do attract some musicians: it’s quite a varied bunch. Some are casual amateurs, some of whom have no idea what the program is all about, and who had no advance warning that the pianos would even be there. Some have obviously been planning and practicing for months. Some of the musicians sing, some don’t; some bring along drummers, guitarists, and vocalists. I even heard that one musician brought some dancers to help liven up his performance, but I haven’t seen that myself…

Anyway, I’ll keep photographing the pianos, and uploading the best of the photographs, until I run out of pianos, run out of time, or run out of energy — whichever happens first.