Culture, Music

Piano Day: a celebration of the 88-key instrument by Nils Frahm

Old piano, Jun 26, 2011, by Jorn Idzerda (1000x563)There is an inescapable bliss to piano music. Be it a piano concerto from one of the classical masters or a modern composition, the instrument brings warmth and colour to expression.

Today, March 29, 2015, is the inaugural Piano Day. It’s not likely to be widely recognised yet, but if German composer and creator, Nils Frahm, has his way, that could soon change.

The pianist said he was looking for a significant day to release his new album, Solo. But rather than spring for a surprise release – which is becoming more and more common, especially in popular music – he decided to create his own holiday.

“Piano Day is intended to be the most joyful of all holidays,” writes Frahm. It will take place annually on the 88th day of the year, which is usually March 29.

Marking the occasion, Frahm has released Solo on the Piano Day website. MP3 and 24-bit WAV versions can be download for free, and paid-for CD and vinyl versions are also available for those who like to have a physical copy of their music.

On the website, you can also donate to a music project Frahm is backing to build a gigantic maxi piano with piano builder, David Klavins. All of the income generated from Frahm’s Solo, and others donations, will go towards funding the Klavins M450, which Frahm said will take approximately two years to build and cost at least €120,000. If the project goal is reached, Frahm hopes to unveil the piano on Piano Day 2017.

Elsewhere today, pianists Douglas Dare, Tom Adams and Tor Miller are performing live music at Rough Trade East, London, from 3pm. And Frahm is also encouraging people to share pieces of piano music with each other, and even dress up. Only don’t play guitar, he says.

Share a song for Piano Day
Credit must go to presenter and DJ, Mary Anne Hobbs, who brought this new annual occasion to my attention on her BBC 6 Music show this morning.

I love the idea of a day celebrating the piano and the music it has given us.

Many musicians start their songwriting process with a piano alone, including Damon Albarn, Paloma Faith, Rachel Zeffira and the late Gil Scott-Heron. While younger musicians, such as Hannah Reid of London Grammar and Naomi Scott, show that no amount of indie rock guitars will jettison piano music from the new pop enclave. Furthermore, the demos for Ghostpoet’s 2013 alternative hip hop album, Some Say I, So I Say Light, were initially put together on an old upright piano that was left in the Dalston flat had recently moved to.

There are too many good piano numbers to name (I actually started compiling some of my favourite acoustic piano and vocal songs into a playlist earlier this year. It’s not even a 10th complete yet). But just a few of my favourite all-piano (or predominantly piano) tracks include: ‘Come Away with Me’ by Norah Jones, ‘If You Wait’ by London Grammar, ‘The Sea’ by Corrine Bailey Rae, ‘Slow Country (Acoustic)’ by Gorillaz, ‘You’ve got a Friend’ by Carole King, and everything from the acoustic sessions on the posthumous Gil Scott-Heron LP, Nothing New.

I was hoping to embed the acoustic version of Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘Winter in America’ from the session he recorded for I’m New Here, in which Scott talks candidly about the symbiotic relationship between piano chords and lyrics. But, at the time of writing, I can’t track it down online – typical, really. Plenty of rarities continue to say rare. Still, I’ll leave with ‘Alien (Hold onto Your Dream)’, as it’s a fitting song to celebrate the first ever Piano Day.

What does piano music mean to you? And do you have any pieces of piano music to share?

Image: Jorn Idzerda/Flickr-CC