spontaneous eruption of pianos, graffiti art & musicians in Mauerpark, Berlin

As a piano lover, I was astonished when I approached Mauer park on a weekday leading up to this last weekend in July and standing before me was an upright piano plunked on the grass. I approached it and asked some people there adjusting it, just what this was all about. Those whom I questioned who were helping to assemble the installation, pointed out that there were another five pianos scattered throughout the park. What? It was surreal! One of the men explained to me that this was the concept of two pianists, as a prelude to a concert they will be performing weeks later, in Berlin. Their intention, to introduce this fine instrument to the public, and to point out how omnipresent the piano has been throughout history as the centerpiece of entertainment. This piano installation allowed people to approach the instrument, check it out, tinker around on the keys, engage themselves with it and to recognize that anyone can play. And play, is exactly what people did. Throughout each day, into the late night hours and into the dawn, there were almost perpetually people perched in front of one or all of these pianos. It was an opportunity to explore that attracted and inspired many people. And many, like myself, kept coming back!

My first impulse, which I followed after wandering to another piano and listening to a few people taking turns playing, was to bike home to grab my piano music books, featuring classical songs of different composers, among them my favorite | Chopin | and return immediately. That’s what I did. I hadn’t had the opportunity to practice in a while. Within a half hour, I had returned to that first piano I’d approached. I think I was standing up as I played, when a man came over and offered me a chair. It was still within the first hours of the exhibition, and when this same gentleman without much coaxing sat down before the piano and started playing fluidly and with playfulness, I quickly ascertained that he must have been one of the organizers. My intuition was correct, he was one of the pianists who had created the installation…and he and the other one were still there, hovering around as their dream was beginning to take shape.

It was remarkable enough to spontaneously have six upright pianos suddenly scattered across the park. But the magic was what occurred during the rest of that afternoon into the evening, and for the following days of the weekend. Each of these pianos had almost the entire time an individual or small group present, engaging themselves in playing. Some stiking, toying, stabbing…and then the numerous people of all walks of life and ages…who sat down and absolutely blew me away with how well they played. Quite a few of the people wandering through this park, wandering around in Berlin, – some locals, others visiting – surprised and delighted me with how expressive they were on the keys.

It was four days of full interactive entertainment, with people gathering around the pianos, playing, supporting each other, clapping as people finished and becoming acquainted with one another. It was such a splendid and enjoyable community bonding experience! What a fantastic gift.

As planned, on Sunday the 1st of August, graffiti artists created their art on the pianos. Now two worlds merged, an old school musical instrument and street art, each appreciated for its own merit. The whole experience was surrealistic and magical.

The pictures I’ve included were only taken on the Monday following the addition of the graffiti, when the park was almost empty. Still there were small groups picnicking and gathering around, as one or several of their friends played; a group of French students, some girls from Barcelona, a Mexican guy living in Berlin with his toddler son… I didn’t capture, as many did with photos or videos the various different performances that people gave, but I will savor all the images and sounds and pleasant surprises I had, among them the various people whom I met and interacted with.

On the first afternoon, two German girls independently approached the piano where I had my music books, and each took turns picking out classical pieces to play. Each of them were excellent pianists, so I was quite delighted to hear see them effortlessly reading the music and playing with such precision and delicacy. Then at another piano a professional musician from Portugal who happened to be doing a project in Berlin over the weekend, hired to compose music on the piano for a cell phone provider, Piedro, also happened upon the pianos and he would appear at different intervals to sit and entertain everyone around him, playing fabulously for hours. One evening several days later, I walked up to a piano among the crowds in the park on Sunday, many enthusiastically attending the karaoke there, intending to just keep walking. But what I heard almost physically jumped out at me because of how passionately this young woman was engaging herself into communicating and articulating this epic, at times discordant and haunting masterful story on the keys. I had no choice but to linger there, somewhat riveted to listen. I was astounded, and as the goose bumps were appearing on my skin I also watched with curiosity to see peoples reactions as they wandered into hearing range, to see if any others were able to hear how intelligently she played. Manjana was her name.

I was captivated by these pianos, as many people were. Somehow this instrument beckons people to gather, maybe taking parts playing together at the same time, or appreciating what the others around them played, taking turns….then wind up hanging out talking with those they’ve met. This whole interactive theatre engaging people to share and join in with each other was a complete delight! Once again confirming that there’s just so much spontaneous creativity happening in Berlin, something constantly percolating with a creative edge. I was pretty mesmerized that this whole playground erupted to join people together, celebrating music and camaraderie.

Thanks for the fabulous gift to the community!

This first photo is from another persons’ assortment of photos, the rest are what I took on the day following the graffiti action.

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| Mauer Mob & Berlin Wall of Sound |

I was on my way to go to participate in this event – forming a Wall of People along the path of the former Wall that had been erected by the USSR
calling thembselves the Mauer Mob, Mauer is the German word for Wall.

organized by one of the members of the Berlin couchsurfing group
couchsurfing.org

However, as I had hosted this past weekend (as a couchsurfer member) two guys visiting Berlin from the Netherlands, they happened to mention this other event which was coordinated to make a statement about the day the Wall fell, 20 years ago on November 9th.

I bicycled over to Mauer Park to join in the 15 minutes of creating a Human Wall, and approached a group in the drizzle thinking that they were there for this event, but observed that all of these people had instruments slung around their shoulders.  I asked a couple of them if they were there for the Mauer Mob, of which they hadn’t a clue, and didn’t speak German.  Soon I put it together that these were the Dutch participants of the Berlin Wall of Sound.

This was Holland’s statement about the falling of the Wall…creating “A Wall of Sound”.  I was informed that a rock group “Noir” out of Groningen, Holland (NL) decided to contribute to the world their constructive statement about boundaries, by building bridges through sound rather than separating people through barriers of Nationalism or Religion….that’s my idea of their intent anyway.

206 was the rough number of participants that the organizers were looking for, to represent the number of people who died attempting to flee the East during the time period that the wall had been erected in and around Berlin.

An article about this event is here.  an aritcle in timeslive is here.

and here is a german article about it.

Here’s the myspace blog created by some members of the band “Noir” regarding this event which took place yesterday.  I’m sure that the recording of the event will be uploaded soon, if it hasn’t been already!

here’s their blog on myspace.

Salut from Berlin!

Carol