Film Friday – The Living Piano
Imagine a giant piano keyboard set up in a park for anyone to play. Sounds like fun, right? Step on the keyboard and a note will sound. Find a friend and you can play a song together. Now instead of synthesized piano sounds, imagine that any time you step on a piano key an opera singer sings the pitch of that key. That is the gist of the “Living Piano.”
The video below features something that’s a lot like the giant piano that they have at FAO Schwarz made so famous by the scene from Tom Hank’s “Big.” Only this time instead of a huge piano keyboard with prerecorded noises, the piano keys (when stepped on) make a real live opera singer sing the correct pitches. It’s called Le Piano Vivant, which means “The Living Piano” in French. The video was released by French-Canadian educational and cultural site TFO. This huge piano was set up in a park in Quebec. Each singer carries the specific tone of each key (I’m guessing that the earpiece keeps them on track), and when a participant steps on a key the human “piano string” sings that note.
The Living Piano was put together as a stunt to bring focus to the Quebec Opera Festival and probably also to the TFO site. The organizers wanted to expose more people to opera and engage the public with a new and never-before-seen instrument. They definitely achieved that! So often when I play opera music for students I think that they’re taken aback by the sound of the opera singer’s voice since it doesn’t sound like what they hear on the radio (or even in my classroom). The Living Piano exposes people to the sound of an full, adult, singing voice.
I think there are some fascinating classroom implications for this video! It definitely would help students make an aural/visual connection between pitch and interval and help you explain how a piano keyboard works. I immediately thought about Melody Street/Solfa stree implications as each singer “lives” on their spot on the keyboard and sings their specific part. It would be great to show to a piano student and you could then make a connection that each string on the piano is like on voice in the giant piano and each of your piano strings “sings” out their part when you play. Oh yeah, and it’s fun! Great extra!
What ways would you use this video? What other connections do you see? Leave ideas in the comments and share your thoughts with me with anyone else who is reading!