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  • So Camden, just around the corner from here,

  • used to be the centre of the global piano industry.

  • A hundred years later, not a single piano

  • is being manufactured in London.

  • Eighty per cent of pianos globally

  • are now produced in China.

  • And across the UK you can pick up a piano for free.

  • Many of them are unused, unwanted.

  • Some of them end up in train stations

  • where the public can play them.

  • So does anyone still care about pianos?

  • Music has always been in my blood, half my family's blood.

  • Went onto the piano at the age of 16 and realised I really

  • liked it.

  • Come the age of about 26 I realised that I could sing

  • and play, because I've always had a singing voice.

  • It's a stress reliever.

  • When I see piano, I have to stop and listen to the one playing,

  • or if possible, I have to play.

  • A lot of customers who are passing they

  • stop and they listen to them.

  • It relaxes you.

  • You feel happy.

  • Sometimes you even get young kids or parents,

  • and they're sitting and playing, and they play very well.

  • And you got people, not only me alone, when

  • they hear a good piece we just clap and say, well done,

  • well done!

  • My grandpa played lots, so everytime

  • we went to visit them, my sister and I. I

  • guess we used to fight over playing piano sometimes.

  • In my family home we have an electric piano.

  • Well, what's the reason you've got an electric piano rather

  • than an acoustic piano?

  • Cost, I think.

  • If you add in the acoustic then you

  • got the ongoing cost of having to keep it in tune.

  • When I was a kid my parents bought grand piano,

  • but the parents' house is so small,

  • it's very hard to put grand piano.

  • And that's why I think...

  • It's declining.

  • Mm.

  • As a professional pianist, you spend your working life

  • surrounded by pianos.

  • Yeah.

  • Well, what's your sense as a pianist of how

  • the wider world sees pianos?

  • It's difficult for me because I'm in that world.

  • I'm so ingrained in that world, so you

  • know, at home when I wake up, my piano's

  • in the main room in our house.

  • So you know, I'll be eating my breakfast and it's there,

  • and then I'll go to work, and whether that is teaching piano,

  • I'm going to be with a piano there,

  • whether I'm at someone's home.

  • They're going to have a piano in their home.

  • So every home I go to has a piano in my day to day life.

  • Looking in from my world, I guess,

  • I think the piano is quite a magnetic instrument.

  • I'm not talking professionally, but just you know,

  • amateur pianists, or just you know,

  • even in a space like this, when there's a piano there,

  • people want to push the keys down, you know,

  • even if they can't play.

  • Well, we've seen that today, I think.

  • Yeah.

  • I mean, this guy's great.

  • In London, it's quite difficult to fit a piano in your home.

  • Yeah.

  • But you must live in a home that can accommodate

  • a very large and good piano.

  • I do.

  • I do.

  • Well, I have two pianos, but I live slightly out of London

  • because I wouldn't be able to fit two pianos into a house

  • that I could afford in London.

  • So I have a Steinway model A from about 1925.

  • It's a really old instrument.

  • It's quite nice.

  • I have kids, and they're sort of drawn to it.

  • Sometimes hate it, because I'm, you know, practicing

  • and they're trying to watch Peppa Pig.

  • I also have like an electric keyboard.

  • Even the best pianists are using electric alternatives now.

  • I don't know if I'm one of the best,

  • but I certainly use one out of necessity, yeah.

  • Yeah.

  • And tell us a little bit about the social side of the piano.

  • I mean, obviously, a couple of generations

  • ago, it was a purely social instrument.

  • Yeah.

  • Maybe nowadays, people with some exceptions

  • play it very often on their own.

  • Yeah.

  • And certainly in your line of work,

  • you have to spent a huge amount time on your own

  • with your piano.

  • Yes.

  • Can we call it a solitary instrument?

  • Has there been a big shift in the social role of the piano.

  • Maybe.

  • I mean, I think one thing that's been really valuable

  • is people doing tutorials on YouTube,

  • and making piano playing very accessible.

  • And I think there's nothing wrong with kids or adults

  • picking up a YouTube channel and learning to play by that.

  • You can get enormous enjoyment.

  • You don't desperately have to read the notes.

  • You can improvise.

  • You can have fun with it.

  • You just get a few basic starters,

  • and that could be the routine, and you know, maybe one of them

  • go on and have lessons.

  • And it's social in a way.

  • I mean, people are sharing their experience with the piano.

  • Yeah.

  • Maybe they're not in the same place.

  • My friend Dominic runs an amazing thing on Instagram

  • where he does live requests, and people just

  • post what they want.

  • He plays it.

  • It's a really nice world to be in for being a piano nerd

  • at the moment, and I count myself

  • very much as one of those.

  • Have you got a piano at home?

  • No, I haven't, but I've got a keyboard.

  • It's very sad when people cannot afford pianos at home,

  • because remember, parents always send their children to do music

  • lessons, and that's what's coming out here,

  • because they remember and they start playing some

  • of the pieces.

  • Have you got a piano at home?

  • No, I'm actually in a homeless situation

  • for another couple of days.

  • Moving on Friday, and when I get one, to begin with I'll

  • probably get a digital piano, which sounds like a piano

  • but doesn't have the harmonics.

  • There's a lovely piano here, and I

  • like coming here for other reasons,

  • meeting different people.

  • I'm a fervent European.

  • Lovely practicing my French here.

  • So do people still care about the piano?

  • Well, I've been here just over an hour, chatted

  • to us about their experiences with it,

  • played, drifted off into their own little world.

  • You've got to ask how many things

  • can make people stop in their tracks

  • while they're rushing for a train?

  • If not I'll just die.

So Camden, just around the corner from here,

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Are we running out of space for pianos? | FT

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/27
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