In association with hhdlstudycirclemontreal.org

Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.
InnerNet Weekly: Inspirations from ServiceSpace.org
The Broken Piano In 1975
by Marti Leimbach

[Listen to Audio!]

2447.jpgMy favourite piece of music is Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert, an hour-long piece improvised, as all of Jarrett’s concerts are, on a solo piano in front of a live audience. You know the story, right?

For the concert, he’d requested a particular piano, a Bösendorfer. The Bösendorfer originated in Vienna early in the nineteenth century. It is said to be the first concert piano able to stand up to the playing technique of the young virtuoso, Franz Liszt, whose tough, unforgiving treatment of the pianos he played destroyed them in short order. Perhaps the Bösendorfer’s durability was the reason Jarrett requested one for the concert. The 29-year old jazz musician was known for his eccentric stagecraft, his improvisations played with enormous athleticism and physicality. It’s fair to say he is tough on an instrument, that he plays unconventionally, even wildly, racing over the keys, standing up, sitting, leaning, panting, moaning. His performances move him—and anyone listening—through the disorder and miracle of creative endeavour. Watching him is watching genius itself, that raw work that is cleaned up only by its imitators.

In short, he needs a good piano.

January 24, 1975. Jarrett arrives to the venue the afternoon of the concert, He is presented with his Bösendorfer. He stands with Manfred Eicher, the man who will one day found ECM Records and who arranged Jarrett’s sell-out concert tour. The piano he has been given for the concert is a Bösendorfer, all right, but it is puny, ancient, totally unsuitable.

Jarrett taps a few keys and finds it is not only the wrong size, incapable of producing enough volume for a concert performance, but also completely out of tune. The black keys don’t all work. The high notes are tinny; the bass notes barely sound and the pedals stick.

Eicher tells the organizer, a teenaged girl named Vera Brandes, that the piano is unsuitable. Either they get a new piano for Jarrett, or there will be no concert.

In a panic, the girl does everything she can to get another piano, but she can’t find one in time. She manages to convince a local piano tuner to attend to the Bösendorfer, but there isn’t much they can do about the overall condition of the instrument.

In the end, Jarrett agrees to play. Not because the piano was fixed up to the extent that he felt comfortable performing, but because he took pity on poor, young Vera Brandes, just seventeen years old and not able to shoulder so great a failure as losing the only performer on a sold-out night.

So he performs on the dreadful instrument. He does what he has to do, not because he thinks it will be good, but because he feels he has no choice.

Tim Harford [described it best], “The substandard instrument forced Jarrett away from the tinny high notes and into the middle register. His left hand produced rumbling, repetitive bass riffs as a way of conveying up the piano’s lack of resonance. Both of these elements gave the performance an almost trance-like quality.”

Jarrett overcame the lack of volume by standing up and playing the piano very hard. He stood, sat, moaned, writhed, and pounded the piano keys. You can hear him on the recording, the agony of the music, his effort at creating any sound at all. He sweated out what must have been an excruciating hour, and he triumphed. The Köln Concert has sold 3.5 million copies and is perhaps the most beautiful, transformative piece of music I’ve ever heard. It makes me cry to hear it, especially if I recall the courage it took for him to perform in front of a live audience on an unplayable piano with that desperate girl in the wings, wringing her hands, hoping beyond hope that he didn’t rise from the stool and walk out. Hoping nobody noticed her great failure to produce the right piano for this most important occasion. […]

Keith Jarett later said, "What happened with this piano was that I was forced to play in what was — at the time — a new way. Somehow I felt I had to bring out whatever qualities this instrument had. And that was it. My sense was, ‘I have to do this. I’m doing it. I don’t care what the piano sounds like. I’m doing it.’ And I did.”

About the Author:

Excerpted from this article. More about Keith Jarrett and the Köln Concert.

Share the Wisdom:
Email Twitter FaceBook
Latest Community Insights New!
The Broken Piano In 1975
How do you relate to the opening created by accepting the reality of the situation completely and making that the basis of our creation? Can you share a personal story of a time you were able to create on a foundation of the reality in front of you? What helps you create in tune with reality?
Jagdish P Dave wrote: Things don’t go the way I want or expect. How do I relate to such situations, how di I face such a challenge? I have two choices: accept the reality and do the best I can or turn my face away from…
David Doane wrote: Accepting the reality of the situation was the opening for Keith Jarrett to work and play with that reality. He started to quit on the project, and then decided to use what he had, making it the basis…
Share/Read Your Reflections
Awakin Circles:
Many years ago, a couple friends got together to sit in silence for an hour, and share personal aha-moments. That birthed this newsletter, and rippled out as Awakin Circles in 80+ living rooms around the globe. To join in Santa Clara this week, RSVP online.

RSVP For Wednesday

Some Good News

Revisiting Fred Rogers 2002 Commencement Address
Photographing the Hidden Story
Dial Up the Magic of This Moment

Video of the Week

Of a Different Yarn

Kindness Stories

Global call with Jacques Verduin & Lama Tsomo!
521.jpgJoin us for a conference call this Saturday, with a global group of ServiceSpace friends and our insightful guest speaker. Join the Forest Call >>

About
Back in 1997, one person started sending this simple “meditation reminder” to a few friends. Soon after, “Wednesdays” started, ServiceSpace blossomed, and the humble experiments of service took a life of its own. If you’d like to start an Awakin gathering in your area, we’d be happy to help you get started.

Forward to a Friend

Awakin Weekly delivers weekly inspiration to its 94,102 subscribers. We never spam or host any advertising. And you can unsubscribe anytime, within seconds.

On our website, you can view 17+ year archive of these readings. For broader context, visit our umbrella organization: ServiceSpace.org.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: