Letter Zero.54
Dear <<First Name>>, 

It’s time to wrap up my series on unconventional music makers. For this last one I want to talk about what happens when you outgrow your piano...

David Klavins
Pianists hear sounds in their mind that they can’t produce with normal-sized pianos. David Klavins builds pianos that make those sounds possible. Here’s a video of David playing some of his creations. I wish I could be in that warehouse to hear his 20 foot piano in person:

Craig Huxley
When film directors hear sounds in their mind that they can’t produce with traditional instruments they call Craig Huxley. If the piano were re-invented by an alien civilization, it might look and sound like Craig’s 18ft Blaster Beam:

Ellen Fullman
Imagine piano wires that are 100 feet long that you play by walking the length of a hall using your hands to vibrate the strings. I can’t say that the music Ellen is making does much for me, but how can I not include her in this list?

Ben Folds
And finally, the person most known for using his piano as a rock-and-roll instrument, Ben Folds. The best moment I’ve experienced in a concert was when Ben Folds was touring in support of his Reinhold Messner album. Ben plays the piano, yes, but he has another instrument at his disposal: the audience. For the instrumental bridge in Army he split the audience into parts and taught them how to sing like horns. I remember thinking, “Is this actually going to work?” Then when the moment in the song came for us to perform, the place filled with the voices of hundreds of fans. Goosebumps.

Regardless of our chosen instrument, we all want to make our own unique and authentic sound. We get wrapped up in our tools and it is surprisingly easy to forget the audience. I see this regularly in software design. As our roles get more and more specialized, we tend to mistake the output of our silos as the end product. Designers confuse our prototypes with products. Developers might mistake the beauty of their code as the end goal. Success metrics are often tied to things that have little to do with what users are actually experiencing. Powerpoints, reports, roadmaps, PDFs — we produce mountains of artifacts that reference our software. We seem to forget about the people who actually use our products. It’s similar to performing with our back to the audience. Build your bigger piano, but don’t forget about the people who will hear your music. They want something to sing along to.

I hope you enjoyed these profiles of odd music makers. We’ve looked at David Crosby, Trent Reznor, Matmos, Len Solomon, Martin Molin, Ali Spagnola, Craig Huxley, Ellen Fullman, and Ben Folds. I hope some of these characters inspired you. Stay creative.

Your friend,
Copyright © 2021 Adrian Hanft, All rights reserved.

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