Opening today at Bonni Benrubi Gallery, “One Steinway Place” is an exploration of the famed piano factory in Astoria, Queens, by the photographer Christopher Payne. Under the glow of fluorescent lights, raw lumber is bent, pressed, conditioned, and polished into instruments of exacting quality. With more than twelve thousand individual parts, including Canadian maple, Bavarian spruce, and Swedish steel, each piano takes nearly a year to assemble before being subjected to a final hand inspection by Wally Boot, a fifty-year veteran of the factory. Payne was allowed unfettered access to the factory, allowing him to document every step of the process. Click-through for a selection of his work, which is on view through September 19th.
I could write a (very short and clumsy) book on why I love the music of Debussy. However, as I have to be at the bar shortly, for now I will err on the side of brevity in tribute and simply say this:
The first time I heard Debussy I was struck with the realization that all “classical” music wasn’t written by the same person, wasn’t solely for the decaying and wasn’t to be experienced through a phone’s speakers while waiting for tech support.
He was the first composer I every really noticed. The first time my hyperactive impulsive childish brain heard something brightly glinting caught my mind’s eye through in the dense timbre of the orchestral armory. Something in his music mentally arrested me, took me by my shoulders and demanded my attention. Whether it was to be sweet, kind, soft and gentle or bombastic, unnerving, intimidating and abrasive… there is a quality to his music that seizes me and refuses indifference.
So often as adults (“ugly-large-children” as I call them) we immediately ignore or pigeonhole music on the basis of prejudice, collected experience, “common sense” or other terrible reasons. I am thankful that the impact of Debussy was great enough to break through that formidable wall in myself and let in a little fresh air and sunlight into my life. I am aware it’s an un-falsifiable claim but I suspect that without Debussy I would never have “gotten into” Western Art Music generally. Given how much joy my meager efforts in to the history, biography, composition and theory of Western Art Music has brought me… that is certainly something to appreciate.
So. Happy birthday Debussy. You will always hold a special place in my heart.