Here is a miniature Mozart figurine I made playing his fortepiano:
My favourite piano rendition of Brahms’ Lullaby on you tube:
It has that old time charm.
I placed a hand crank musical movement that plays the Lullaby into a couple of wooden boxes, glued them together, added acrylic paints and decorations to make a music box pianola player piano:
Here is the back:
Social conventions have applied to both playing and listening to music, but over the years they have operated very differently.
In the 16th century musical ability was seen as an expression of good birth and good education.
This attitude continued into the following century. Roger North, a gentleman architect and amateur musician writing in the 1690s, recommended the viol, violin, organ, harpsichord and double bass for men, and the spinet or harpsichord, lute and guitar for women. However, he thought the harpsichord better for a lady’s posture than the lute.
During the 18th century, members of the nobility continued this tradition. In Hungary Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, a gifted amateur, employed Joseph Haydn to compose pieces on the baryton, his favourite instrument. In Britain, William Wellesley, 3rd Earl of Mornington was a talented performer and Thomas Erskine, 6th Earl of Kellie a well known composer.
However, many preferred to hire musicians rather than play themselves. The Duke of Chandos, for instance, employed an orchestra of musicians who also functioned as servants at his country seat at Cannons, Middlesex. In 1749 Lord Chesterfield, who regarded himself as an expert on etiquette, instructed his son: ‘If you love music hear it; go to operas, concerts and pay fiddlers to play for you; but I insist upon you neither piping nor fiddling yourself. It puts a gentleman in a very frivolous, contemptible light.’
At home, music continued to be a polite accomplishment, particularly for young ladies in need of a husband. The Victorian age is associated with musical evenings and no house was complete without a piano, whether a grand piano in the drawing room or an upright piano in the parlour. Also, women were now allowed to play the violin. In 1839 the journal Musical World said, ‘we think so highly of ladies and the violin that we rejoice at every opportunity of their being introduced to each other’.
In both private houses and public concerts, the audience was expected to listen in silence, just as it is today. This could be tiresome. Charles William Day, in his Hints on Etiquette and the Usages of Society (1836), wrote:
‘It is generally the misfortune of musical people to be such enthusiasts, that … they seldom know when to leave off … The listeners get fidgetty [sic] and tired, although they are usually too polite to say so. … A song now and then is very desirable, as it is a relief to conversation, but half a dozen consecutively … would become a bore.’
Day also reminded his readers that the job of the accompanist was to accompany and not to drown out the singer. Fortunately, he wrote, ‘when highly gifted musicians are found in private society we have generally observed their delicacy to be in proportion to their excellence.’ One such performer was Frédéric Chopin, who captivated an audience and delighted in meeting Queen Victoria at Stafford House in 1849. He had a less rewarding evening with the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton, particularly when one of the visitors contributed with ‘the most dreadful tunes’ on a concertina and left him with the impression that they were all mad.
( Full article here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/history-of-musical-etiquette/ )
Poor Mr. Chopin! Sounds like the concertina player was not very accomplished!
Inspired by the theme of music evenings in the Victorian era I give you The Gentleman Ghost.
A strange Victorian gentleman, restless in his grave returns to haunt his old upright piano, missing the time when he was alive and played the music of Chopin, Brahms, Debussy and Mozart at gatherings in his house.
Who knows if he was a good pianist or not!
I’ve used some texts from a vintage old novel to create a bit of a narrative for this creepy diorama of an abandoned house.
There is an old Grandfather clock stopped just before midnight with a book text above it that hints at the time of his death—
This spooky Victorian inspired shadow box was handmade by myself. It hangs on the wall from the wire on the back.
The wind blew bitterly cold. It tore round the desolate old mansion and scattered dead leaves round the crumbling walls. A single candle flickered at one of the upstairs windows. A white figure appeared as it had done each night for the past 150 years. Waiting—
“I am leaving you. I do not feel guilty in doing this. I have known for some time that it must happen- for both our sakes.”
Memories haunt both the living and the dead.
“The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one:
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.” *
Alone in life-
alone in death.
Haunted by memories
the lonely ghost
waits at the window
for love to return.
*The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, Francis William Bourdillon (1852- 1921)
Music for The Lonely Ghost:
The Lonely Ghost was made with vintage novel pages and white tissue paper. A cardboard box has been collaged with more of the book pages and text carefully chosen to bring to life its story. I’ve used some of this text to create the above story.
Some pink flocked design art papers have been torn and distressed with pencils and paint to create peeling old wallpaper.
Pieces of voile have been glued to the window for tattered old curtains.
I made a clock using a metal craft frame with a clock print to the right of the ghost. Time stands still for the ghost, and it waits for time to begin again—
I was inspired by abandoned old houses, and hauntings to create this roombox.
Here is a Victorian Ghost curio box I made:
I found this interesting article “The Growth of the Market for Domestic Music” on Lee Jackson’s website “The Victorian Webb“. This article examines the rise of middle class wealth and how “the first musical fruit of middle-class prosperity appeared in the form of a piano.”
The importance of the piano in the middle class home shouldn’t be under estimated:
It was the acquisition of pianos in large numbers which was to vastly extend the market for drawing-room ballads, and to standardize the genre as a song with piano accompaniment (rather than, say, harp). In the early part of the nineteenth century it was taken for granted that a song published with piano accompaniment was intended for home music-making, or ‘at home’ functions such as soirees, since songs at public concerts were normally performed with an orchestral accompaniment until the 1840s.
The tradition of publishing music heard at concerts in versions aimed at amateurs stretched back into the previous century: then the passion for the German flute among gentleman amateurs had lain behind such remarkable publications as Handel’s complete Messiah arranged for flute. The piano seemed to attract the middle class in its earliest arrival in England: Charles Dibdin introduced it at Covent Garden in 1767, and Drury Lane gained an official pianist in 1770.
By way of contrast, the piano did not replace the harpsichord in the King’s Band for another twenty-five years. In the 1830s there was a great variety of pianos available (grands, squares, upright grands, upright squares, cabinet pianos, table pianos, giraffe pianos, lyre pianos), but the design that won the day was Robert Wornum’s cottage piano. Its small size was not created at the expense of tone quality, and its pleasant shape made it a satisfying piece of furniture. Wornum had been working on his cottage design [45/46] since 1811.
The action on an upright piano is unavoidably more complex than the grand, where the strings lie in the horizontal plane, and he continued to make improvements in the late 1830s: for example, his ‘tape-check’ action, which formed the basis of the upright action used in pianos today. Further improvements were made to upright design in the 1840s, and henceforth the softer-toned square piano began to lose favour. The grand piano, however, continued to be the first choice for the concert platform; the upright was considered a domestic instrument.
As today, pianos back then did not come cheap, although despite there being more pianos in the home in the 19th century than today, electronic keyboards and pianos can be bought fairly cheaply ( such as second hand) and require little to no maintenance.
Pianos cost around 25 and 40 guineas in 1856: a lot of money!
The piano became the pre-eminent bourgeois instrument for a variety of reasons. At first, it was a luxury instrument; therefore, its possession indicated worldly success. It was, as already remarked, a pleasing piece of furniture, gleaming in its mahogany or rosewood case. A fondness for excessive ornament emphasized this purely visual appeal; indeed, the decorative parts of pianos were the first to be mass produced: in the second decade of the nineteenth century Broadwood bought cast-brass moulding by the foot and stamped brass ornaments by the dozen. The extremes to which this decorative interest could stretch may be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, where there is a satinwood piano decorated with Gothic ornament, inlaid and gilded, with three silk panels at the front (probably the design of Charles Bevan). The piano had established itself as a luxury item of furniture in the 1830s.
The beauty of 19th century pianos still inspire our admiration today, with their beautiful carvings and adornments. They appeal to our sense of nostalgia and romance.
As public playing was not considered as seemly for women, despite there being concert pianists and composers like Clara Schumann, it tended to be women who were the main home musicians. Domestic music making was often to accompany singing and a lot of sheet music was published ( ballads especially) for home entertainment. In fact, some of the composers of these pieces were women. I attended a Victorian song concert around 4 years ago where a tenor sang Victorian songs/ballads written by women, accompanied by a pianist. He was even dressed in 19th century style.
You can find a fascinating article on women ballad composers on “The Victorian Webb” entitled “The Rise of the Woman Ballad Composer“:
The piano too, featured in literature of the time, and women especially could express themselves through piano playing as it was considered an accomplishment for young ladies to be able to play at family gatherings and parties.
Inspired by my interest in the Victorian era and love of antique pianos I created a circa 1860s Victorian room, complete with hand made miniature piano and paper Victorian doll. Here she is stood by her stool looking in her sheet music book, deciding what she wants to play:
And now she sits playing:
You can see more photos of “The Victorian Piano Room” on my Etsy store:
French Photographer and pianist Romain Thiery accompanied his own remarkable images of abandoned pianos for his Requiem for Pianos series.
About thirty of his photographs are focused on a central object: the piano; sometimes with some of its keys missing, sometimes completely dismantled but always sitting imposingly. Impressive and incongruous, it is there. It is where, not so long ago, grace, luxury and a respected novelty used to reign.
At first, led astray by the natural aesthetics of the king of the instruments, one could have seen some kind of romanticism that could be at odds with the photographer’s powerful other works. In the latter, the picture does it job, despite the amazing work on the light: the spectator feels a sense of disquiet -despite the beautiful representation. It is obvious: what used to be no longer is.
In a mess that leads us to ask ourselves a hundred questions, a dust-covered piano is erected and its nobleness is striking, its grandeur lies deep within the basics of our culture. The art of the photographer is to show us this arrogant beauty that relegates everything else to the background.
Andrea James, writer at boingboing.net.
There is another photographer, Dutchman Roman Robroek, who also takes photographs of abandoned pianos.
Here is one of his incredible photographs:
(Picture credit, Roman Robroek in an article on the Daily mail online)
What do you see when you look at this haunting photograph? I see loneliness, not the “arrogance” that Ms. James expressed in the above. The sight of this beautiful piano left to decay, discarded and unwanted tugs at my heart strings. Maybe I’m too sentimental but looking at it I think about the hours of music it gave to people long ago. Once it must have been treasured.
Here is Roman Robroek’s website:
When I started my Urban photography journey, I mostly saw empty, abandoned and decayed buildings. It didn’t take long before curiosity struck me. What was the story behind those buildings? Who used to live there?
The artist and story teller in me shares his curiosity. I have always been fascinated with the past, especially the 18th century, Victorian and Edwardian eras, and love listening to music played on antique pianos from these eras. Inspired by all this I created a roombox entitled The Lonely Piano:
In abandoned room in an old Edwardian era mansion a lonely old upright piano stands in the decaying room, with old music sheets piled on top of it and scattered on the floor. Photographs of three women, perhaps they were sisters, hang above the piano. A shadow casts an eerie shape on the wall- the fanciful person might imagine it’s the ghost of one of the women come back to play her beloved piano. Perhaps if you listen one night, the piano will be heard playing an old time melody….
This roombox stimulates the imagination, and the viewer can create a story behind it. Who were the sisters? What happened to them? Why is the piano left in the house all alone and forgotten? Is the house haunted by ghosts of the past?
More photographs of The Lonely Piano roombox can be seen on my art page in my Gallery:
Here’s another miniature Piano I’ve made. The title of this roombox is The Old Piano’s Dream.
In abandoned room in an old Victorian villa a lonely old upright piano stands in the decaying front parlour, with old music sheets, papers and books scattered on the floor around it. Its keys are damaged, it has lost its lid and it is covered with cobwebs.
A photo of a cute baby in a bonnet hangs on the wall behind the Piano and two portraits of a young couple, dating from the 1890s on the wall to the left of the Piano.
The Piano longs for times past when the young couple would play it and fill the room with its music. (Maybe they liked to play the music of Mendelssohn….)
As it dreams of the 1890s it sends musical notes rising into the air as it remembers the young couple ( seen on the wall playing it)…..
You can see more photos of The Old Piano’s Dream on my art page.
Both these piano roomboxes went to loving homes via my Etsy store.
Romain Thiery made a moving tribute called Requiem pour pianos for all the abandoned pianos he had photographed:
His poignant photographs can be seen on his Instagram page:
Neil’s talk is very interesting and full of humour- he is witty and so positive! His jokes made me laugh out loud- such as references to eating his favourite songs and maybe if teenagers had Lady Gaga salads they might eat their vegetables!
He is aware that his eyes don’t show him what most of us see- a bright world bursting with colour and vitality. As an artist myself who loves flowers I have a hard time imagining what it would be like to only see shades of grey. I’ve always been into colour and even did a colour therapy diploma a few years ago. Colour is a big part of my life. But yet, Neil presents his world in such a way that my reaction is not of pity as I expected to react, but wonderment- he HEARS colour with his device and uses it to create music and art; he can even hear infra red.
This device has become part of his life and changed how he experiences the world so much that he now sees himself as a cyborg:
Neil Harbisson is a Catalan-raised, British-born contemporary artist and cyborg activist best known for having an antenna implanted in his skull and for being officially recognised as a cyborg by a government.
The antenna allows him to perceive visible and invisible colours such as infrareds and ultraviolets via sound waves. The antenna’s internet connection allows him to receive colours from space as well as images, videos, music or phone calls directly into his head via external devices such as mobile phones or satellites.
Harbisson identifies himself as a cyborg, he feels both his mind and body are united to cybernetics. He doesn’t feel he is using or wearing technology, instead he feels he is technology. His artworks investigate the relationship between colour and sound, experiment the boundaries of human perception and explore the use of artistic expression via sensory extensions.
In 2010 he co-founded the Cyborg Foundation with Moon Ribas, an international organisation that aims to help humans become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights and promote cyborgism as a social and artistic movement.
I have to admit to having a negative response to the idea of cyborgism- the images if scary sci dystopias, loss of human warmth and connection to nature, creatures like the Borg in Star Trek TNG coming to mind, but in the case of Neil Harbisson I see how this implanted device has changed his world for the better.
Love this artwork by Zlatkomusicart.
Beauty and sadness, abstract portrait (acrylic on canvas). Art painting by contemporary artist Zlatko Music
I was out of inspiration so I decided to clean up my workspace.
I’m a pretty messy, and often not very well organised so there are always a lot of sketches and drawings all across the floor.
So in this process of trying to organise things a bit, I came across this drawing of a woman’s portrait. It was something I draw just for practice and left it there.
Suddenly, as I’m looking at this drawing inspiration kicks in! There was something in that pose of a woman, it was beautiful, but she looked so sad. Sometimes sadness can be really beautiful in a strange way.
I don’t know if I managed to capture that sadness in a painting, but nevertheless it looks very interesting to me, and on a bright side I started painting…
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These paintings are just..stunning!!….wow..!! They move me incredibly; just to look at them is like entering a beautiful dream. I am hugely impressed by this artist’s talent.
Laughter in the Rain, Sunrise over water – themes that remain some of mankind’s most dreamed of subjects… And Chopin’s Nocturne in D Flat is the quintessential nocturne. It is dreamy but restless, just like the painting below. These three paintings show what can be achieved with a predominantly grey palette. These paintings show grey at its most lyrical and evocative.
NOCTURNE IN D FLAT
This work is 1.7m by 1.4m and painted in oils on linen. The painter James Whistler painted several “nocturnes” and like this one they were great in tone to suggest nocturnal themes. But this painting also suggests a nocturne as a musical composition, and more specifically Chopin’s Nocturne in D Flat op 27 no 2. I have played and recorded this work at the piano, and it features in my novel, Love and The Art of Painting. The D Flat key of the nocturne is consistent with the colour scheme of this work. More importantly most of the work is placid and tranquil, but this tranquility is interrupted by turmoil in the lower centre of the painting. That is consistent with Chopin’s great musical composition which begins smoothly and calmly but wanders through a field of fiery emotions…
LAUGHTER IN THE RAIN
Oil on linen 1.8m by 0.9m 2015
by Ian Barton Stewart
A beautiful painting showing how the colour grey can represent a remarkable poeticism and diversity. The title is drawn from Claude Debussy’s piano work of the same name, which I have played and admired for many years. If I had to choose a particular passage in Debussy’s work that mirrors this work, it would be the middle section beginning in the key of G Major, which I think is one of the most remarkable passages of music ever composed. Here, the rain is suggested by the verticality of brush strokes, while laughter is evident in the patches of of white and dark grey in the lower half of the painting. But of course, each viewer sees a work himself, and not necessarily how others see it. The photo of course does not do the painting justice, so you will have to imagine what it looks like in real life and size, for it is a large and breathtaking painting, and the modulations of grey, white and darker hues form a single unified conception in the painting, that a photograph simply cannot capture…
SUNRISE OVER WATER
Oil on linen 1.7m by 1.4m by Ian Barton Stewart
This painting shows the sun commencing its arc across the sky, bringing forth blazing light and warmth on which nearly all life on Earth depends. The work has something of an old master quality about it, and the sun rises over a seascape of mystery. If I think of analogues in the realm of music I think of Claude Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque, Richard Strauss’s Sunrise from Thus Spake Zarathustra, and maybe even Chopin’s Barcarolle. Of course I did not paint this work to emulate these composer’s works. Nor did I paint it to emulate Manet’s Sunrise painting that heralded Impressionism as a style in the history of art. This painting can be seen as influenced by all of these works and themes, but you will not find another painting like it anywhere (unless someone has copied this painting). This painting reminds me of one of my favourite artists, JMW Turner, with its washes of colour over moody water, but also with a warmth that makes the painting appear illuminated from behind.