Our Disposable Culture and the Gentle Giants of Music

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Who would throw away a piano? And why does the mere thought of this make me sad?

There is an article this week in the New York Times called “For More Pianos, the Last Note is a Thud.” The article explores a new trend, in which pianos are being abandoned or destroyed at an alarming rate.

Some of the more disturbing excerpts from the article include:

 “Instead of spending hundreds or thousands to repair an old piano, you can buy a new one made in China that’s just as good, or you can buy a digital one that doesn’t need tuning and has all kinds of bells and whistles,” said Larry Fine, the editor and publisher of Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer, the industry bible.

“In wintertime we burn them,” he said, pointing to a round metal stove. “This one has eaten many pianos.”

Maybe it’s because I played the piano when I was young. I remember countless hours sitting at the piano, staring at the picture on the wall wondering when my practice session would be over or sneaking into the kitchen to change the timer that was set to document my 30 minute practice.

But there is something that makes me melancholy when I think about these gentle giants turned into firewood.

Learning to play the piano takes work. But the relationship between a pianist and her instrument is special – if a person puts in the time on the piano bench, the piano rewards her with the beautiful gift of music which she is free to share far and wide.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons – Edwige Lombardi-Munhoven (cat called Gina)

We have become too cavalier about destroying our history. I am reminded of neighborhoods across the country where people tear down gorgeous historic houses to build McMansions. It is heartbreaking.

And the people building those McMansions with three bedrooms for each occupant can’t find the space for a piano?

What is this world coming to?

What do you think? Does this story make you sad or do you think I am just being nostalgic and resistant to progress? Are there other items that you grew up with that are now being disposed of that you hate to see discarded? Do you see any hope for reversing this trend?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you liked this, you might also like:

Piano Adoption (A great resource from the article noted above, where people can post pianos for adoption or can adopt a piano)

Romance in Paris: Why Do French Bookstores Continue to Thrive? (newsofthetimes.org)

Times Are Rough – I’ve Got Too Much Stuff!  (newsofthetimes.org)

The Importance of Slowing Down in a Busy Bee Culture (newsofthetimes.org)

74 Comments

Filed under Culture, Economy, Environment, Ethics, Love, Music, Relationships, Technology

74 responses to “Our Disposable Culture and the Gentle Giants of Music

  1. I think it is sad too. We have an old piano in our living room. I no longer know how to play it, but I like it there. and when my stepson comes over, it gifts us with amazing sound! I can’t imagine burning one!!!

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I wish we had room for a piano – my mom has one I could have. This post is making me rethink our space to see if we can cram one in! Thanks so much for reading!

  2. I think that pianos should be looked after and repaired. There is something about them that is just great. It’s a shame to destroy them

  3. We do have a disposalable culture – what a shame and I don’t even play piano!

    • Yeah, I think it is sad how easily people get rid of – or even worse, destroy – beautiful old things. I love antiques and antique shops and I always wonder about the stories behind the wonderful quirky things you can find there. Thanks so much for the comment!

  4. I think it’s sad because it’s symbolic of our lack of respect for anything that isn’t easy or that doesn’t give instant satisfaction. Yes, it takes time to learn to play and it may need to repaired or tuned but caring and nurturing something has it’s own rewards. Great post.

    • I totally agree. That seems to be what is so easliy forgotten in our culture. I don’t see that same lac of respect for history in other countries – I think we are worst about this in the United States. I could be wrong about that, but that is my perception. We need to place more value in things that have withstood the test of time. Thanks so much for reading and for your comment!

  5. This makes me sad too – I love the piano, even though I do not know how to play it — my dream is to have a room dedicated to a grand piano and hiring someone to play it 24/7 (more gently at night)–I understand I would need more than one person to do this–but it would be wonderful — I was at a grocery store in Florida once, and they had someone playing the piano in the middle of the store – I just loved it!

  6. I couldn’t agree with you more! But then you and I are out of step: we like old books and….pianos. My sister-in-law restored an old player piano that belonged to her mother. It has such a nice sound! Old things have more than mere utilitarian value: they have beauty and sentiment attached to them! Thanks for the great post! 🙂

  7. P.S. At the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota they have several pianos here and there that people can sit down and play. It is quite a thrill — and some of the players are quite good.!

    • That is a such a great idea. I could see that it could be incredibly therapeutic for patients who have played all their lives byt had to leave their homes. Thank for sharing this, Hugh! And thank you for reading, as always. It means a lot!

    • Hello there! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog plfortam are you using for this site? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another plfortam. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good plfortam.

  8. Dear Jenni,
    It resonates with me. As very young girl, I wanted a piano so bad. We couldn’t afford one, and finally, my Mom found someone who was getting rid of theirs.
    WHAT a gift.
    That piano was with me all while I was growing up. It was there for me, when friends were mean, when I got a bad grade on a test, when I was pouting at my Mom (heehee), or mad at my then boyfriend (now husband).
    It’s been with me when my babies couldn’t stop their little fingers from banging on it.
    It’s been moved thousands of miles and followed us everywhere.
    I will have it till the day I die.
    😉
    Love, Lis
    xoxooxx

  9. This makes me sad. Are there avenues for them to donate to schools or after-school groups where someone could have them refurbished? I am not even close to being knowledgeable on pianos, but many older furniture pieces and instruments were built to last longer. I have a used bedroom set I bought used 30 years ago and it is built better than most new stuff. So, my dumb question is if you repair something built better in the past, will it be more sustainable than something affordable new?

    • Absolutely! I imagine like so many other things where newer frequently equals cheaper if person invests in repairing an old piano, it will last a lifetime! And donating to a school or after-school group is a great idea. And Hugh hit on something I hadn’t thought of – maybe nursing homes or assited living facilities would be interesting in taking an old piano. Thanks everyone for the piano support group! 🙂

  10. Cindy

    I can’t bring myself to part with our piano even though I no longer play it. I always think “maybe I’ll take it up again someday.”
    I’ve been reading about pianos left out in outdoor public spaces for people to stop by and play (I think in Philadelphia). Does anyone know more about that?

    • I love that. There is usually a piano on the Pearl Street Mall here in Boulder, but I thought someone wheeled it out and back for themself to play. I’ll have to see if I can tickle the ivories on that one one of these days. Thanks so much for reading and taking time to share your thoughts!

  11. In Victoria on Vancouver Island they have a piano on one of the squares – that anyone can sit down and play on – first I thought it was put there because somebody didn’t want it anymore – but they take indoor during the night and when it rains, but from the beginning I think it was dumped. Always somebody sitting there playing- great idea.

  12. I can’t bear the thought of pianos being destroyed. I love playing the piano, and have two grand pianos, both of which I treasure. I’m sure that there are so many people who would love to have the pianos which others don’t want.

    • I know what you mean. I feel the same way. I know they are hard to move, but it is hard to think about them being destroyed. Glad to know you use and enjoy yours! Thank you for reading and taking time to comment!

  13. Don’t despair my friend! A trend is moving across the globe of setting up pianos in public places for anyone who wants to play them. Just happened here in Houston I think, not sure but know it’s a large Texas town.

  14. The waste is so very sad. We had a drum kit that we donated to a school. You would have thought we left them a million dollar endowment with the greatfulness they displayed. Please, it was being used as a coat rack in the basement, so to see children playing it was more than a gift to us. So many schools lack funding for the Arts..it’s a shame that is not considered when the disposal is decided.

  15. This is sad. We’ve got our old piano, and my daughter plays it. Soon she will be gone, but I will keep it for her, or for guests at parties, and my brother always plays when he visits. I love the idea of pianos in public places for anyone to use.

    • I think it is so fun when someone visits and just sits down and plays the piano at a party. Glad to hear you are going to keep yours. I am sure your daughter will really appreciate that, epecially during the years when she is living in dorms an apartments, etc. where it is harder to own a piano. Thanks so much for the comment!

  16. It is a bit sad. My son played when he was younger. We later donated it. Couldn’t bear the thought of abandoning it. A piano made in China? How long would it last?

    • Good question. I can’t imagine it would be as sturdy an old piano. And good for you for donating it. Hopefully it is bringing joy to a family like Party of Fives here. 🙂 Thanks so much for the comment!

  17. This makes me sad too, and I feel a bit guilty. When we were first married, we bought an old upright from the classifieds and had it for a few years. We saved, bought a new baby grand, and let the people we bought from haul away the old piano. I have no idea what happened to it, but I long for that old piano. I wish we had kept it along with the new one.

    • 🙂 Let’s just picture it in a house full of pianists…thanks so much for your comment! And your empathy. It was interesting to see how much this story struck me – and apparently it struck others as well! Thanks so much for the comment!

  18. That really is sad! I have had my piano since I was 16 and will pass it on to my daughter. And I hate to any old furniture tossed out on the street. I have several old pieces mixed in with my contemporary furniture – they have a few scratches, lines and dents, but so do I. We have character!

    • Me too! And I much prefer beautiful old furniture to the new shiny breakable stuff in the stores these days. Character is what makes something beautiful for me – in furniture AND in people! Thank you so uch for reading!

  19. Some things are just not progress. Yes, this makes me sad. I never would practice the piano and can’t play it to this day, but cut it up for fire wood? I don’t think so!

  20. I just don’t feel like a house is truly a HOME without a piano…even if no one knows how to play it!!

  21. I really hate the idea that so many everyday things are tossed away without a care. To see pianos abandoned on the street is very sad. It’s a shame that people feel it is too expensive to repair them. 😦

    BTW, consider yourself tagged! See my blog for details. 🙂

  22. Pingback: The Cost of Owning Too Much Stuff | newsofthetimes

  23. I thought of this post the other day. UNC – Charlotte just had a donated piano sale to raise money to buy instruments for the school and others in need. Very cool.

    • There should be more of that, don’t you think? In the world – there should be more donations from people with excessive amounts of things to those with nothing. I know you agree. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!!

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