Hammering Loose Pins for the Deceased in Long Island City

20141103_11051420141103_110520 Morning appointment in downtown Brooklyn at a High School in a Gothic building - met by P. and led into the bowels of the institution to visit an Full Upright in grave disrepair, long relegated to a tiny concrete closet - veneer peeling, missing ivory key-tops, riddled with dead notes.  My job - to present the school with an itemized list of recommended repairs and their costs.  This document will be run through the bureaucracy and in a few months once the budget is established I'll be back to spend time in the dungeon.

P. tells me the piano has been in this basement for decades, shuttled between various store rooms during construction projects, long disused but never given away.  "This is why" he says as he plays a 5th in center of the keyboard "I knew it wasn't a lost cause" - the unisons aren't bad, and the 5th itself is about right.  Clearly the Pinblock isn't shot, and cursory inspection shows me that the soundboard and bridges should be able to hold a tuning as well - the entire piano is only about a fifth of a half step off - incredible given the span of time since anyone has touched the piano - back when things were built to last.


A music class comes into the adjoining room - the air fills with tentative, wavering string harmonies - I pack up my tools and accompany P. into the hall as he tells me of his plans to work on pianos as a retirement income when he moves to his cabin upstate "In 3-4 years."  His father was a professional piano technician and he says he understands "how all this works" as he outlines the general shape of an upright piano action in the air with a pudgy finger.


I rush home for a hasty burrito before hopping back on the G to head north to its final stop at Court Square in Long Island City - a surprise piano tuning for M.'s boyfriend's birthday.  Funny thing is, neither he nor anyone else in the house plays much piano.  She's a hair and makeup artist and he's a lighting specialist for film sets.  But his best friend recently passed away, and used to play this piano - they seem to be tuning it in his memory.  All the pins are buttery loose, so I hammer ever single one in, do two pitch raises, whip through a fine tuning and head to the monthly meeting of the Piano Technicians Guild of NYC.

Another long day - but filled with lifetimes of beauty.

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