This is the first post documenting Floating Piano Factory’s ambassador program in which apprentice Bimol Karmaker is visiting London, and lead technician Eathan Janney (me) is visiting Peru to connect with people and their pianos (see end of post for more details).
The adventure begins. The first stop on our journey is Lima, Peru. It has been arranged that we will stay in a lovely hotel right near the oceanside. We includes me and my wife, Christine Mladic Janney. The stay has been arranged for us by the Fulbright Commission of Peru, as Christine has won a grant to conduct PhD research.
She’ll be focused on research, and I’ll be concerned with finding pianos in this unfamiliar place. But my wife is the one who speaks Spanish; I am still learning. How do you even talk about piano tuning in Spanish? After some initial (and confusing) discussions with some locals, my wife helps me learn the following useful words: afinar means “to tune,” regular means “to regulate,” and tocar means “to play” (when speaking about a piano).
We arrive at the hotel and set our bags down. In the meantime, I am considering my strategy for finding pianos. Where will I find my first piano? Will I need to ask strangers? Will our connections back in the states have suggestions? Where are the music stores? Where are the piano technicians? How many are there?
It turns out that the first interesting piano we find is right in our hotel lobby! A couple days into our stay my wife inquires about the piano, and she explains our project to the employees. However, there is hesitation on the part of the front desk staff. Even though I would like to tune the piano for free, the manager of the establishment must be contacted, but is not present often. Furthermore, the staff think that there is someone who is already in charge of the piano. How can I demonstrate to them that I my intentions are take good care of the instrument?
They allow me to play the piano, saying that it is played often by guests. I am curious about its state. It looks beautiful on the outside but perhaps it needs some love—after all, the piano lives in a room open to the outside air!
To my surprise though it plays beautifully. The piano’s technician must be highly skilled. If the piano is so exposed, I wonder how it sounds so good? How often is it tuned? Does the temperate climate of Lima allow the piano to keep its tune better? And most importantly: who is the person that cares for this piano? I must meet them.
The tuning sounds great but there is one glaring issue with the piano: F#4 is a dead key. I do not want to overstep my bounds to investigate the cause. I do not even mention it to the hotel staff. But it would be lovely to be able to fix it. In my improvisation on the piano, I had missed that note a couple of times. I wonder if the piano’s technician knows there is a dead key? We tried to get contact information through the hotel management to no avail. And soon we had to leave for our next city: Arequipa.
We do have plans to return in November. Perhaps I can find this excellent technician and they may have a unique story to share! And maybe we can get that key working. Only time will tell.
About this series: Floating piano has come to be internationally known, and thanks to the internet we’re getting inquiries worldwide about our top-rated apprenticeship program! This has inspired us to try to connect with international piano lovers in person via some transcontinental traveling. Bimol Karmaker will be spending some time in London, and Eathan Janney will be visiting Peru, while our star apprentice Daniel DiMaggio is manning the ship at home in NYC, ready to tune your piano to the highest standards!
As “Goodwill” Ambassadors, we have assigned ourselves the task of connecting with piano owners in foreign lands and exploring the histories of their pianos. We will document these adventures and stories, and as a gesture of good will, offer to tune the pianos for free. Piano tuning is our business, but we are also fascinated with the non-transactional aspects of a piano tuning visit: the interaction with a piano owner, the sharing of music, the caring for an object that has a life history of its own. Music is a global phenomenon that exists outside of the physical, political, and national boundaries that may separate us. We would like to highlight these factors by making connections through pianos and sharing posts about them.