The Keyboard Is a Landscape

A premiere for a dozen pianos

This is a photo I took on Wednesday evening, September 14, in Golden Gate Park, not far from where I live in San Francisco’s Richmond District. The occasion was the premiere of Fall and Fly, a new piece of music composed by Benjamin Gribble for a dozen pianos. The funny thing is that after the performance, several people I spoke with said the same thing. They’d assumed in advance, as had I, that the pianos would surround the audience: that we’d walk amid a landscape of keyboards and hear different things depending on our location. Instead, the pianos were grouped together in an arc, forming what felt like, in effect, one single 1,056-key instrument.

I shot this image just before the piece began. For the performance, its composer took a seat at the first piano on the left (the one fully in view above the hat that’s on top of a tripod). Gary Kamiya, Agneta Falk, and Rebecca Solnit spoke at the opening, though the sound system was such that depending on where you sat, you might not have heard much of what they said. From today, the 16th, through the 20th, the same dozen pianos will be placed throughout the Botanical Garden, and anyone can walk up and play a bit. There are also some scheduled events. Details at It’s a mixed blessing that this weekend there is much-needed rain in the local weather forecast.

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