Category Archives: piano

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.

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

What do we care about a fucking piano?

A still from footage taken in Phnom Penh after its fall in April 1975. A grand piano also features in Dalrymple's Monrovia Mon Amour, in the chapter describing 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 civilization…. simmering rage and envy….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.'

A still from footage shot in Phnom Penh, April 1975. A piano also features in Dalrymple’s Monrovia Mon Amour, 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. 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.’

The barbarians

Piano lesson

I’m going to do this to your pleasant little market town. It’s my vision, you see

They want to turn the whole world into Dubai

Renzo Piano (pictured) is a barbarian.

Jean Nouvel is a barbarian.

The greatest barbarian-desecrator of them all is Lord Foster. The buildings Foster foists on us are of course modern — grotesquely, charmlessly, incongruously, inhumanly so. But he is broadminded where his own person is concerned, for he also likes ancient stuff, such as his title. He is Baron Foster of Thames Bank. (The rank was introduced in England by William I.)

These architects, writes Dalrymple, like the ISIS iconoclasts or the Chinese Cultural Revolutionists,

are barbarians, albeit using a slightly subtler method of destruction, namely that of entire townscapes in order to impose their so-called vision, which is indeed visually inescapable, on what already exists, thereby in effect destroying it, turning the whole world into Dubai.

A Steinway with its legs cut off. Around it, a bracelet of fæces

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 08.48.16Cloacal revolt against civilisation

Dalrymple describes a visit to Monrovia in an interregnum of the civil war there.

There were no telephones, no banks, schools or hospitals open, there was no running water or electricity supply, and every institution had been destroyed with a thoroughness that I have never seen equalled.

The Holy Virgin Mary. Chris Ofili, 1996. Oil, elephant dung, polyester resin, glitter, collaged pornographic images

The Holy Virgin Mary, Chris Ofili, 1996. Oil, elephant dung, polyester resin, glitter, collaged pornographic images

Dirty protest — or possibly an art installation

The Centennial Hall

was, of course, deserted when I visited. In the centre of the floor was what was probably the country’s only Steinway grand piano. Its 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.

We have come a long way from the covering up of piano legs in order to preserve the purity of the thoughts of men in the drawing room.

Piss Christ, 1987, Andres Serrano

Piss Christ, 1987, Andres Serrano

Piano legs bared — but we’re no better off

Piano legover

Gone forever, points out Dalrymple, are things like

  • the covering of piano legs in order to preserve the purity of the thoughts of men in the drawing room
  • unhealthy concealment
  • the application of cruel and cumbersome devices to children to prevent masturbation
  • prudish circumlocutions

The trouble is,

enlightened as we believe ourselves to be, a golden age of contentment has not dawned — far from it.