Thursday, March 2, 2017

Blog: NY Times article uses multimedia storytelling to make a story resonate"

"For More Pianos, Last Note is Thud in the Dump"

I first read the text to this piece in the New York Times before watching the video embedded with it. Then I read it again, but this time with much more resonance. Pairing the text with an audio and visual component turned this feature into a much more powerful statement.

Daniel J. Walkin's lede about Knab and Lester pianos doing acrobatics gives a vague idea of the scene compared to video of such lovely vintage instruments being flattened by a skid steel loader. The visual is what makes you say, "Damn. They don't make 'em like that anymore."

The text alone made me feel a little sad for the lack of financial support for music programs in schools, the state of of landfills, and the other subtle travesties linked to a story about someone throwing away a piano. Still, however, just as disenfranchised as the people getting rid of them and I want to be. It's the multimedia piece that makes the issue real.

The strongest quote in this piece cannot even be read in the story. Brian O'Mara, a man who makes a living, in part, by getting rid of these instruments for people says, "That's the thing that really bothers me. Somebody else would take pride in it, other people just take it for granted. That's the main thing that hurts the most about disposing of them."

The audio/visual made me consider how much time, energy, and skill once went into manufacturing, and how disparately the process looks today, where commodities are made to be disposable and replaceable. This leads to a disconnect with the ethical and environmental effects of consumerism.

The sentiment involved with playing a piano makes the instrument the perfect thread to weave this message together. It's among the only pieces of furniture, or inanimate objects in general for our purposes, possessing the ability to make you care.

A quote in the story from Martha Taylor, a piano restorer, explains this well:

"It is the most emotionally charges piece of furniture that there is. When I have you say: 'You've buried your grandmother. You have to bury her piano,' it's a really hard thing."

It's such a charismatic instrument, that a skilled pianist can make a piano tell you if the song is happy or sad. Incorporating such a distressed melody as background music to film of one being destroyed achieves a reaction that could never be obtained by words alone. It's the multi-media components that make you feel.

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