I have a love/hate relationship with pianos.
I love the way it sounds but hated my piano lessons. I was less than virtuoso as my piano teach fell asleep. When she nodded off, I would tick the telltale mark on the corner of the sheets to represent my accomplishment of the task and then wake her up. Completely, not a virtuoso. Fast forward to the present and my heart has softened when I see pianos, especially pianos in public. Music in public transforms the dynamic of the space. It can either add to the cacophony of mobile phone talkers, taxi horns, bus brakes or completely transform the air into a symphony. Luke Jerram cleverly introduced this international tickling installation and we were lucky enough to experience it.
It’s no wonder that David Litchfield’s The Bear and the Piano amuses our hearts. This picturesque story is about a bear who stumbles upon an upright in the forest. As it does, curiosity gets the best of the bear and the bear begins a lifelong affection with the piano and the wondrous sounds emanating from it. One day, a human hears the melody and urges the bear to come to the city (evidently Broadway) to play. The bear is swept up in the adulation of its musical talent but then pauses to ponder the twin notions of belonging and home. The illustrations celebrate the juxtapositions of human and animal, shadows and light, urban and rural, solitary and communal. A sweet sweet story and a fine addition to the urban ankle biter library.
Ankle biter 1 enjoyed it because he is finally delving into the concept of story-telling. His omnipresent “Why’s?” are finally being answered as he sits patiently and lets the tale unfold. The book, he felt, required some push the button musical narration given the centrality of the piano. Nevertheless, he enjoyed the fact that bears can travel into the city and receive “stand up clapping.” I enjoyed it because the story is inspired by The White Stripes Little Room. Also, it shares the unity inherent in music, whether playing or listening. I am connected to you in this moment and we belong here. Such connection is best experienced in the great outdoors and we should tickle away (as every good boy does fine). What instrument would you like to play in public?