The Spectacular Piano Drop

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A few weeks back I heard about a piano drop in Duvall, Washington (state), USA. The event took place in McCormick Park, on the banks of the Snoqualmie River, to celebrate the Great PIano Drop of 1968.

It all started when two musicians, Larry van Over and Gary Eagle, accidentally dropped a piano off the back of a truck. They thought the sound the shattering instrument made was “kinda cool”, and considered how they could make this destruction sound even better. They came up with the idea of dropping a piano from a helicopter as part of the forthcoming local “Music Mash” Festival which featured Country Joe and the Fish, amongst others.

The 2017 SummerStage Piano Drop. Photo: Lisa Allen, The Woodinville Weekly

And so on April 28 (1968), 3000 spectators witnessed the spectacle of an old upright piano being dropped from a helicopter at a height of some 150 feet above Duvall farmland.

When the piano was finally released, the impact, and subsequent implosion of the instrument, failed to deliver the desired aural feast that Larry van Over had hoped for. The crowd, however, seemed pleased enough, and enthusiastically helped themselves to pieces of the wreckage as souvenirs, completely clearing the impact crater.



The overall success of “Music Mash”, including the drop, led directly to the creation of the Sky River Rock Festival later that year. And many say that this festival was the inspiration for Woodstock.

Retrieval of the piano. Photo: Lisa Allen, The Woodinville Weekly

The 2017 event was somewhat more restrained. As part of the last SummerStage concert of the year, a foam piano was flown up above the park tethered to a drone, and then released. Local children rescued the (undamaged) replica and happily returned it to the launch site. The organisers intend to create an even better event next year.

The Baker House Piano Drop

Piano drops are quite widely celebrated. One of the most famous is the Baker House Piano Drop. This first took place in 1972, when a group of MIT students launched a piano from the roof of this six-storey building. The purpose was to test a new generation of high speed cameras, but the event has become the stuff of legend. The practise continued, on and off until the present. In 1980 is was rescheduled to coincide with “Drop Date”, the final date students can drop subjects from their courseload.

 

Comedy Piano Drops

The tv/film world regularly use the image of a piano falling from the sky. This event can be either accidental or otherwise. Here are a few examples, kindly compiled by AFX…

 

Advertising

The piano drop crops up surprisingly often in TV advertising. As I mentioned, it is a way of drawing attention, and it can be spectacular.  I wrote about this phenomenon earlier in the year in a piece about a middle eastern retail chain’s new advert..

On an even more superficial level, there was also a rather good UK ad for door locks released in April 2017…

Although of little musical value, the piano drop is a spectacular way to draw attention to an event. We care about musical instruments, so seeing one being destroyed does generate an immediate emotional involvement. Let’s hope that only irrepareable instruments are ever used.

News of the 2017 SummerStage “drop” appeared in The Woodinville Weekly.

If you have news of any piano drops, please do let me know, and I will strive to mention them.



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