Sunday, September 15, 2013

Yesterday afternoon Tom demolished our piano.

I'm going to pause here a moment because demolished sounds sloppy, and he was anything but. Perhaps I should say deconstructed, but that sounds too detached for the vigorous circumstances. Our emotional intention was "to put the piano to sleep" but the piano shouted and groaned throughout the process. It had been built in 1901; and even though it was a terrible musical instrument, it hung onto life, hard.

We had owned this piano since 2001, when I bought it for a hundred dollars and paid another several hundred dollars to have it completely retrofitted. This seemed like a good idea at the time: doesn't every home need a handsome upright from the era of sentimental parlor crooning? Plus, its brand-name was Wellington, just like the name of our road. Our son, who was four when we bought the instrument, learned to play it, and at sixteen he still sings and plays with adolescent-singer-songwriter earnestness.

But the instrument has never been able to hold a pitch. A week after a visit from the piano tuner, it would be out of tune again. Even worse, the tuner could never fully align it with standard A-440 pitch. It was always at least a half-step flat. As Paul has gotten more interested in singing and playing with other people, this pitch issue has become intolerable. Several years ago we bought him an electronic keyboard; and gradually he shifted all of his piano playing away from the old Wellington onto the keyboard, even though it doesn't have a full 88-key keyboard. It's not that he likes the electronic noise possibilities; he just wants to play something that holds an accurate pitch.

So for the past couple of years, unusable old Wellington has loomed in our living room, crowding out the light and space. And yesterday I said to Tom, I think it's time. So we cranked up the radio Red Sox, and Tom carefully demolished the piano. Because the thing weighed a thousand pounds, the only way to get it out of the living room was in pieces. (In 2001 a brawny his-and-her team of junk-store owners moved it into our house, and I still have no idea how.) Tom saved all of the old boards, but he had to cut the strings in order to detach the metal innards. Every cut was a yowl. It was like a tragic opera, The Death of the Piano. And even after an entire afternoon of deconstruction, he still hasn't finished. The flayed corpse lingers robustly in the living room.

I am aware that my verb tenses are a mess in this note, but how does one talk about a half-demolished piano? Is it dead or not dead? Did we once own a piano, or do we still own it?


Ruth said...

Condolences on the piano's death, but what a great poem title. I know several other people who have performed surgery, however delicate on their pianos and they too report yowls and howls.

Carlene said...

I am reminded of the episode entitled The Fling from the old series Northern Exposure (which was, for most of my younger adult life, my very favorite program). Such grandeur and tenacity needs to be commemorated, and in a way that makes sense. I suggest the verb eviscerated, instead of deconstructed or demolished. =)