The Power of Music in Public Places
‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ is a public piano project initiated by British artist Luke Jerram in 2008 that started with 15 pianos being installed in different public locations in Birmingham, UK. The colorfully painted pianos all have the simple invitation ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ on them in large letters, and it is estimated that during the three week period of the pilot project more than 140,000 people participated. Described as a ‘musical equivalent of Facebook’, the street piano concept soon spread to cities in other countries, bringing people together with the power of music.
Creator of ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’, Luke Jerram, says the idea for the project came to him while visiting his local launderette and the realization that, although he saw the same people there each weekend, no one spoke to each other. Noting that there are no doubt hundreds of these ‘invisible communities’ where people spend time with others in silence, Jerram says his solution to the problem was to place a piano into these common spaces, thereby ‘acting as a catalyst for conversation and changing the dynamics of a space’.
Street pianos are generally situated in places with high volumes of pedestrian traffic, such as bus shelters, train stations, public parks, markets and sidewalks. How long the pianos remain in any location is a decision left to the communities they are in and generally anybody is welcome to play. In addition to engaging spectators, who often join in with a sing-a-long, street pianos have given talented musicians the opportunity to share their music with the public, leading to some being ‘discovered’ and going on to greater things. There are currently around 1,300 street pianos in 43 cities around the world, some of which are regularly moved from place to place, remaining there for weeks or months, and others are donated to local schools after their stint on the street.
While the feel-good factor of sharing music is undeniable, there is scientific research suggesting that music has the power to bring people together and change perceptions about public places. The ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ Website has a number of heartwarming experiences – some with links to YouTube videos or personal blogs – about the affect this project has had, and continues to have, on people – check it out and enjoy!