Commissioned by Appetite Stoke, Luke Jerram’s ‘Play Me I’m Yours’ was in action in locations across Stoke-on-Trent August 2014. PMIY begins with a number of pianos that are donated by local people that are then decorated by artists and given to the community to play. Each piano is unique but for a large vinyl sticker reading “Play Me, I’m Yours”. PMIY has appeared in towns and cities across the world.
I was asked to decorate one for the Bentilee Neighbourhood Centre around the theme of ‘connecting young and older generations’.
To design the concept I met with the youth group and with Steve Griffiths at the Bentilee Neighbourhood Centre, who runs a group for the elderly. It became clear that the piano would be with they young people for two days a week and with the older group for another two, spending the rest of it’s time in the foyer. I found out the favourite songs of both groups and found a way to notate those songs on the piano itself, so anyone could read the notation and play the songs. I numbered the keys, 1-12 (4 full octaves down the length of the keyboard) and transcribed the tunes of the songs into simple instructions.
I then painted the instructions on the sides of the piano, which I split down the middle; one side young and funky, the other reminiscent of 1940s furniture design. The 1940’s inspiration came from the song selection for the older group- The Very Best of Glen Miller.
However, I put the Glen Miller songs on the young side and the young people’s selection on the 1940s side. Meaning that each generation will likely play each others music. This could also be a game to be played between the generations, where an older person plays and they young person guesses and vice versa. The fact that the numbers are on the side also means that it is at least a two player game, where one person shouts out the numbers and the other one plays. In this way the piano becomes a point of connection between people and across generations.
PMIY provides a playful way for people to connect, be expressive and simply play in their public places, which echoes the ethos of my own research. I am so pleased to have been a part of it. More about PMIY at www.streetpianos.com