Ever since I'd heard of The Ruined Piano Sanctuary several years ago, I wanted to see it for myself. Found just out of York, Western Australia, it is a place where people can take their pianos that are past their prime and good for little other than firewood. They are left out in fields to be humbly admired and played by those who love the strange form of entropy taking place.
I drove there with my two friends Anna and Miko. After taking a few wrong turns from our mysterious and vague directions (credit: me), finding ourselves at one point driving down a road of sodden stuffed toys strapped haphazardly to trees and rocks, we finally arrived at our desired destination. The fierce morning rain had cleared, leaving a fine day ahead of us.
Lifting the lids of these beautiful musical creatures was a joy in itself. In differing states of decay, some had insides that were almost perfectly preserved. Not all the keys worked- many had warped and were unable to move at all. Others made deep, thumping sounds from within their bowels. There was one time where I pressed a key down and after playing one discordant note, it jammed, seemingly to never play again. An inanimate object had never felt so vulnerable. So alive.
In the middle of a paddock, a baby grand piano was positioned precariously on a rocky hill. All his varnish had fallen away to reveal a weathered, tired skeleton. The ivory façade of his keys was also long gone. Dilapidated state irrelevant, he still stood magnificent and commanding.
A grand piano that was once resplendent in a crimson coat had since collapsed in tatters to the ground on the opposite end of the field. Her mouth was completely detached from its body so she was conventionally unplayable. Instead, Anna, Miko and I knelt down beside her a and picked and strummed delicately at her insides. The sounds that emanated were alien, surprising, and on all counts, fascinating.
One of the last pianos we spotted was shaded by a large eucalyptus. The recent storm had caused a spontaneous catastrophe. One of the large overhanging branches had snapped off the trunk and crushed the upright piano it had once protected. He was snapped in two and was a heartbreakingly beautiful sight.
This is a place that must be seen. I left the Ruined Piano Sanctuary with a renewed appreciation for the complexities of a piano and the sublime beauty of the strange and imperfect. If you have a spare day, go explore.