Category Archives: composers

What do we care about a fucking piano?

In Monrovia Mon Amour (1992), in a passage about a visit to the Centennial Hall, Dalrymple writes:

Lying on the ground was a Steinway grand piano (the only one in the country), its legs sawn off. The body of the piano, still gleaming black and in perfect condition, was in direct contact with the floor, while the three sawn legs were strewn about. A long-contemplated but long-frustrated revenge upon a whole alien civilisation. Simmering rage and envy. The piano’s legs and pedals had been carefully sawn off and disposed around it, the body of the piano lying flat on the ground.

Around it in a ring, like a necklace or a bracelet, the people who had done this, or those of like mind, had disposed their fæces.

Michel took photos of the stricken instrument. How long before some post-modernist composer has a pianist not play the instrument but, in front of the audience, saw off its legs, to the craven applause of critics afraid to be thought stupid or reactionary? We felt we had secured something of a scoop.

We returned to the Olympic Hotel. There we found two British photographers. I described to them the destruction of the piano. ’What do we care about a fucking piano?’ one of them said. I despaired then of my own country.

Centennial Hall

Whether Michel’s photos of the stricken Monrovian piano survive is not known. This is a still from footage shot in Phnom Penh, April 1975