Saturday, July 11, 2009

Note by Note

I watched this documentary on ABC2 recently, and was so transfixed that I couldn't even take a bathroom break. It is the story of piano L1037, which was made in Astoria, Queens, New York, in the Steinway factory.

I remember the first time I visited New York, the friends I stayed with lived in Astoria. On a walk around the neighbourhood I discovered Steinway Avenue, and through further research I found that in the 1870s William Steinway built Steinway Village for workers at Steinway & Sons Piano Factory.

This documentary is a labour of love, following the one year creation of a concert grand piano, from timber selection, rim bending, case making, stringing, and all the many stages of voicing and tuning. Each Steinway piano is handcrafted, giving them unique personality and sound, all the tuning is done by hand and ear. In the age of mass production, these folks are sticking with tradition, using tools and techniques which are over 150 years old. Their employees are true artisans, who hope to continue to pass all this knowledge and skill down through the generations.

This film honours the 450 craftspeople involved, the materials and processes used, and the final purpose of this instrument, featuring interviews and performances by many acclaimed pianists. I could watch it repeatedly, to see 60 year old Ante Glavan using his super-sharp chisels to 'notch the bridge', and to hear those classic Queens accents, among others from Haiti, former Yugoslavia, and Croatia.

Note By Note: The Making of Steinway L1037

1 comment:

earl and cookie said...

oh i'm so with you! CJ & i were watching too & the guy with the chisel was amazing. it was so beautiful to see all of those old traditions being used - parts of that doco made me want to cry, it was so good.
ps did you watch the show that was on before it about the real place called North Pole? that was great too.