In continuation from the article ‘True Music, True Muse’ we discuss further the appeal of Poul Henningsen designed pianos with pianist, composer and PH Pianos Brand Ambassador Alice Thompson…
PH Magazine: Tell us more about the design ethos of Poul Henningsen’s pianos and why they appeal to you?
AT: What I like about the PH Grand Piano and also the smaller ‘Pianette’ which is Poul Henningsen’s design for an upright piano, is the idea that these unconventional piano designs are less intimidating than traditional wooden finished pianos. There is an ‘openess’ to PH’s piano designs that invites people to come closer to them. Remembering back to when I was a child, I was fascinated by my Grandmother’s old upright piano that had been purchased as a wedding present from my Grandfather to my Grandmother. At some point before I was born, my Grandmother’s piano had come to live on a permanent basis in my childhood home. Yet despite my interest in the instrument, I was also a little afraid of it, it’s physical size and the closed-off mystery of it inside it’s locked wooden cabinet was scary to me. I think in the same way there can sometimes be a perception that a really good piano is the preserve of the concert hall or someone who has had years of music lessons and can already play really well. Of course, this is completely untrue. I have always believed that piano and music are for everyone and there can be pleasure found in imperfect playing or avant-garde and experimental performance: it is also necessary – without it there would be no future composers, pianists or new music!
If ever I am around someone learning to play piano, whether they are a child or an adult learning piano for the first time or perhaps rediscovering it from earlier in their life, it is still a pleasure to hear them play – the joy comes from witnessing someone on a pleasurable journey with music. To me, this level of playing is absolutely as wonderful as a concert pianist playing the most challenging of ‘classical’ pieces of music to something that is considered as close to the concept of ‘perfection’ as possible.
PH Magazine: PH shows us that there is ‘another way’ of thinking, another way of doing things and that everything should evolve and progress to become a more refined conduit to it’s purpose?
AT: While the PH Grand Piano manufactured by Blüthner fits comfortably in a concert hall environment and delivers a sonic experience that would be expected of the world’s finest pianos, the PH Grand Piano I think has many other wonderful attributes that ultimately bring both pianist and listener ‘closer’ to experiencing piano music with the greatest clarity in it’s purest form, straight from the heart of the instrument and the pianist playing it.
When Poul Henningsen designed the PH Grand Piano in the the 1930s he observed that traditional pianos appeared to be played ‘inside their packaging’, since the soundboard and strings of pianos had come to be encased inside a ‘wooden box’ that was not removed when the piano was played. PH was keen to ‘unbox’ the piano and reveal the core of the instrument inside. The result is a piano that allows it’s audience to be even closer to hearing the piano’s voice directly from the soundboard, while visually appreciating the mechanism of the instrument itself – there is literally more to see and experience and to entertain.
There is something about Poul Henningsen’s piano designs that draw people in, setting people free to play music and experience music in a very liberated, unconstrained way. The design philosophy of PH Pianos facilitate the production of music that can be enjoyed by many and as a result, this also encourages music itself to evolve. At least some of what is considered musically ‘new’, ‘nouveau’ and ‘experimental’ in the present will doubtless stand the test of time to become what will be thought of as the ‘classics’ of the future. Poul Henningsen’s customisable piano designs look decoratively at ease in so many diverse situations and I think this may ultimately help more people to discover and experience piano music in smaller and more unconventional venues and homes, as well as traditional performance settings.
I compose and play music through instinct: through experimenting with rhythms, melodies and harmonies. For me, the drive to create something sonically beautiful using the piano comes from within – in that sense, music to me is innate. The PH Designed Grand Piano is completely in synergy with this way of thinking, as the design has stripped away all of the ‘furniture’ aspect of the piano, leaving only what is necessary: bringing both the composer, pianist and listener ever closer to the core of the instrument. The PH Piano is egalitarian in design: representing inspiration, freedom and progression in music. Poul Henningsen believed that well designed things should be enjoyed by Everyone: the PH Piano is the ultimate expression of this.