The salvage yard piano seems like a fictional device, but Marcus Fischer‘s photographs, reproduced at the top and bottom of this post, make it clear that such a thing exists. Yet even if it exists, the salvage yard piano is an idea. It’s the idea of a regal instrument left to rot. It’s not just rusty wires, and keys that look like cracked finger nails, and wood warped with mildew and age. It’s the aura of that instrument, the original beauty peeking through the decrepit husk.
And in Fischer’s 3:49-long track titled “110327,” piano and aura combine into a thing of intensely fragile beauty:
He describes, both on the track’s source page and on his own website, in a post titled “Lonesome Piano,” how the piece came to be. His young daughter, Gemma, played the piano, which is stored at what he describes as a “building salvage warehouse” in the neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, where he lives. Apparently the same piano provided some source material for his excellent 2010 album, Monocoastal (on the 12k record label). He writes of the instrument, “it was nice to visit it again and see that it still sits in its same lonesome corner of the building.” The melody is Gemma’s, and he then transformed it into the track we hear here. Apparently the audio is lifted not from a straight audio recording, but from a video of Gemma playing. The melody is spare, a few notes hit according to a gentle rhythm, mixed with high, sheer sound, the aural equivalent of the lens flare, and filtered through a scrim of field recordings barely distinguishable from white noise.
Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/mapmap. One warning: the downloadable version is massive, a 62.93 MB file in the aiff format. More on the piece, including a third photograph, in addition to the two shown here, is at Fischer’s website, unrecnow.com.
Marcus Fischer’s Monocoastal was one of my favorite commercial recordings of 2010. Full list here: “Best of 2010: 10 Best Commercial Ambient/Electronic Albums.”