I spent a great deal of time looking at the thing. The president of the museum had told me the short story. One of our donators had had brought it in with some old letter presses and disorderly wood type pieces he had come across.
“I told him no we don’t need it about five times. So now, we have a player piano.”
It was a typical tall standing player piano. Dusty. Out of tune. But it came with a bunch of scrolls of music in some beautiful boxes. All labeled in a beautiful cursive hand that none of us could get over. I had half a mind to design a typeface around it. But with what time? I pondered and discarded the idea.
Many unusual things found their home in the museum. Most of the time the unusual things were actually people…and usually they were me. I was becoming quite comfortable donating my time to the museum on my Thursdays off. I had made myself at home. Even giving myself tasks like vacuuming the gallery because the dust was pissing me off or making sure one of my fellow volunteers (and now a very dear friend) was kept company and adequately annoyed with me by the end of the day. I keep failing at that last one of course. The man is in too high a spirits to be annoyed, but it is still worth a shot.
I had been moving a bunch of cases when I noticed the player piano. Actually it was pointed out to me, and struck up a conversation between I and the Museum President. It lead to asking what kind of music I listened to, then what kind of literature I read, and so on. The kind of conversation that most creatives judge each other on, and in our case, evaluated and found a great deal of common ground and respect.
“I’m impressed. I would have assumed much less of you because of your age. You surprise me.”
I often surprise older people. Mainly because they think of younger people as awkward conversationalists and easily entertained by the usual crap found in pop culture. They often tell me so, and while I do indulge in top 40 stations and like a good cartoon or anime, most people are intrigued when I tell them I don’t own a television and start my mornings with coffee and a news paper…a real one. Not one on a screen.
“I too read a real news paper.” He said with eyes wide and full of adoration. Not because we actually like what’s in the news, but because it is so rare to find another human being who will actually take the time to subscribe and read an actual printed paper. Much less read almost all of it. But, I crave written word in all its forms, and a news paper is typically a small non-fiction essay. Local gossip and fact mixed with the rest of the world…and politics that no one cares about, but will still read ‘just in case’ one needs to be in-the-know on such matters.
As our conversation ended and I looked at the old piano I felt a little tinge of sadness. Mainly because I sensed the desire for the thing to be useful. The desire of our President to have it be functional. My desire to let such a cool and beautiful artifact remain beautiful. Like a news paper. A piece of history that just shouldn’t die. The ‘historian in me’ as many of us volunteers usually say, really wanted the past to come back to life, and there was no better way to keep the past alive than with music from an antique.
At the end of a day I left a note at his desk:
“My dad can tune that piano if you really want to get it running.”
It was a start.