Piano Stories:
The Competition

This is a narrative, a way of exploring the requirements of our next generation of digital technology for our pianos. See what you think!

 

The two girls sitting on the bus watched the street signs. One checked the map on her phone. "It's near the next stop," she said. The bus slowed to a halt and they bounced off.

"What are we looking for?" her companion asked, trying to keep up with her as they ran down the street.

"It's my last one," the girl out front said over her shoulder as they turned a corner and entered the city park. They could hear music in the distance.

"There it is!" she called. "Somebody's playing it."

It sat near the fountain, all covered with shiny patterns that seemed to move in the sunlight. A man was playing something and singing to the woman sitting next to him on the bench.

The two girls giggled. "Lame," said the younger one. But the older one thought, maybe not. They waited their turn.

They sat down on the bench. There was a little screen in front of her. It was dark and at first she didn't know if it was even turned on or not. 

Then, a message appeared in small white letters in the center of the black screen. 

"Hello, Jamie." it said.

"It knows you!" said the younger girl.

"It's talking to my phone," said Jamie. "We learned how to code that stuff at the last ChickTech hackathon. I think it's using Bluetooth, but it could be using WiFi. I read something about it on their web site." 

"Cool!"

The screen changed. "Please Play Me!" it said. 

"I need to play something in order to get credit," said Jamie.

"Play what?"

"I don't think it matters," she said, and started to play. It was something from some Disney movie, but she didn't remember the words past the first verse and the chorus.

The screen changed. The text disappeared and was replaced by a background that matched the piano's decoration. The patterns in the background moved.  Words appeared over the colors. 

"My name is Clara," it read, "I'm named after Clara Schumann, a famous pianist and composer," An old picture appeared. The lady in the picture looked sad.

Jamie stopped playing and the screen immediately faded to black.

"Keep playing, Jamie!" said her friend.

"I will!, Daria," said Jamie, "Let me think of something else." She started to play again. The screen came back to life and more words appeared.

"Do you like how I look?" the screen read. "I was decorated by a designer named Julia." Another picture appeared, then more. It was like watching Instagram but the words and pictures moved around, fading in and out. More letters appeared: "Caterina, Jim, and Sanjay wrote my software," More pictures, more people. "And Joyce and Michael made it all possible with their generous contributions."

As Jamie played, eventually the letters and pictures faded and the moving colors just danced back and forth. She played different chords and notes now, just to see what the screen would do. 

When she finally stopped, the screen glowed a warm golden color, then faded to a deep, dark green. It made her think of somebody taking a deep breath or a sigh. 

A small set of golden letters appeared. 

"Thank you." 

A single note played, even though nobody was touching the keyboard. 

Jamie's phone chimed. She looked at the notification.

"I just got a coupon!"

"For what?"

"For playing all the pianos on this side of the river."

"I mean," said Daria, "What is the coupon for?"

"Oh," said Jamie, "Let me check." She touched her phone and scrolled around a bit. "Salt and Straw ice cream. Two free scoops!"

"No way!" said Daria. "That's just a couple blocks from here."

The two girls stood up and, as they walked away, Daria turned and waved at the piano.

"Bye, Clara!" she called. But somebody else was already playing Clara and she was too busy to reply.

 

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