If All the Unplayed Pianos
If all the unplayed pianos in America—
The antimacassared uprights in old ladies’ parlors
In the storehourses the ones that were rented for vaudeville
The ones where ill fame worsened and finally died
The ones too old for Sunday School helplessly dusty
The ones too damp at the beach and too dry in the mountains
The ones mothers used to play on winter evenings
The ones silenced because of the children growing away—
Resounded suddenly all together from coast to coast:
Untuned joy like a fountain jetted everywhere for a moment:
The whole nation burst to untapped, untrammeled song:
It would make—in short—a most satisfactory occasion,
A phenomenon which the scientists could never explain.
Winfield Townley Scott (1910 - 68)
I had not really grasped what a privilege it was to live a life where art and music are part of the daily soundtrack until I participated in a college production of In His Steps, by Charles M. Sheldon. Written years before the "WWJD" bracelet, this is the novel in which the "tramp" inspires the citizens of Raymond to ask themselves "What would Jesus do?"
When the homeless man walked onto the stage and implored the audience to realize that many people grow up and "never have a piano or a picture in the house," I had to stop and think. We had not only a nice piano upstairs for practicing our lessons, but another one downstairs as well where we could bang out "Heart and Soul" to our heart's content and stage homemade musicals or re-enactments of our favorites; and both sets of grandparents had pianos that we were allowed to play almost any time we wanted.
After hearing the tramp's plea, I realized that music and painting and cultural literacy did not appear out of nowhere and were not as readily available for everyone as they had always been for me. Like writers Laurie Colwin and Joan Didion, Sheldon reminds us that these civilizing elements ought not to be taken for granted, considering the value they add to our existence.
Even an unplayed piano is better than no piano at all.
Ben the Anarchist ~ Chicago, Summer 2011
Wandering into public buildings and playing
any unplayed piano until discovered by a security guard.
"We got to play for 20 minutes before they kicked us off (found us)!"