Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Reviving the Lost Art of Being Overly Excited

This was one of the best things I ever watched, I am sure.
What could be more connected to my 90-day sensual challenge than a movie about people who use guts, heart, determination, feelings and skill to produce the world's most awe-inspiring and legendary pianos?

The documentary Note by Note, produced and directed by Ben Niles, is a breathtaking and important film about the making of one of Steinway's Grand Pianos used in professional concert settings. Taking over a year to make, (the piano, not the documentary) and involving the handiwork of numerous craftsman from a plethora of different specialized areas, (the tuning itself takes over a month to perfect) watching the production of one of these incredible instruments is like watching a team of unique and highly passionate people give birth to an awesome monster of sound and magic. Yeah. You know what I mean. You've seen teams do this before...

I was particularly struck by several things that all the folks had in common, from the musicians that get to play these works of art to the people who bang the wood initially into shape. They all had an exceptionally sensitive understanding of the nuances and individual personalities behind each instrument. They each cared deeply about processes that rely on human problem solving and human intuition and heart, and they all shared an across-the-boards passion for what they do.

Yet with these similarities, at the same time, they all came from such different backgrounds. The folks who work at Steinway are characters enough that even if they were building something other than these magnificent beasts, you'd still want to watch a documentary about them. One man, an amazingly jovial Irishman, talks about how the team of people that make up the workers would look like the UN if they all brought in the flags of where they're from. They speak a heap of different languages and range in age, background, taste and skill in so many ways. But they all have a beauty and a wisdom that unites them together in the most profound of ways.

A plate-fitter, for instance, talks about how he closes his eyes to "feel" out where there are problems with his work. Another discusses how he puts heart into his job which is one of the things a machine (most piano companies rely on machines nowadays) cannot account for. Many of the workers are aware of the importance of handing down training and knowledge on the job, and about how real-life experience is what makes all the difference. Some are quiet, reserved and fastidious, while others look like (or are) Dead Heads, and still others resemble truckers that have been on the road for a long, long time. They all blow your socks off with their intelligence, deep understanding of their craft, and their awareness of the need to be sensual when applying their knowledge to the building of the Steinways.

I could go on and on and on here for this film really did tear the top off my head. And hats off (tumbled, really) to all the lovely and intensely exciting folks in the world who are able to, with hand, gavel, crook or song, create objects together of a beauty that surpasses any understanding of what the word means in the first place.

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