John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
Piano Pound’s creator calls the free instruments a “symbolic manifestation of decisions that current Bay Area residents face.”
Christopher Silas Moon is a man who believes every piano, no matter how weather-beaten, out-of-tune, or termite-infested, deserves a good home.
So one recent day while drinking whisky—High West Double Rye!, neat, to the brim of a tiny glass—the 27-year-old Mission District denizen decided to take action. He scoured the pages of San Francisco’s Craigslist, picking out pianos that people were trying to unload for free. He copied the advertisements onto his own website, Piano Pound, giving the pianos names and fictional backstories in the hope somebody would adopt them.
On his Reddit thread about the project, titled “I got drunk and made a site highlighting all the free pianos in the San Francisco Bay,” Moon says he spent “literally just an hour banging out a website real quick. I did it all under the power of whisky.” But Piano Pound isn’t just a lark for the former pianist. Moon finds a poignancy in these unwanted instruments, which he calls a “symbolic manifestation of decisions that current Bay Area residents face.” Here’s more from Piano Pound:
They used to say only coffin makers and piano builders would never be out of a job, but today in the San Francisco Bay Area, that’s no longer the case. Faced with high rents, a declining arts scene, and steep, hundred-year-old staircases, pianos are a free commodity. This site seeks to find great pianos homes, so that they might once more bring joy and creativity.
“I liked the idea that we could turn these burdens into dreams—and hopefully outlets—for people,” Moon says. So if you’re in the market for rescuing a 600-pound ivory pet, head on over to Piano Pound and get browsing. Here are a few of the shelter’s recent arrivals, complete with Moon’s imagined histories:
Scruffs is what some might call a lost cause. Never to beset a stage again with the groan of loose strings droning from a haggard visage. A New Yorker, Scruffs was wrought at the height of the Roaring ‘20s. That gleaming pearl paint. Ivory and ebony for days. A baby-grand ready to take on the world. Ready to be caressed in smoky jazz halls, percussed on the band-stand and presented under the glow of a black velvet spotlight. Now Scruffs waits—shamed, rotten, buried and forgotten. Waiting for a revival. Waiting for a home. Waiting to be played.
Uncover Scruffs in Stockton.
Kevin is the kind of piano who would sell you pot from an M&M’s-mini tube. Crazy Keys burned you a CD of Nu-Metal he got on Limewire. His older sister lets you rent R-rated movies on her Blockbuster account. Like all troubled pianos—the counselor says he just needs a safe place to channel his creative energy. He is still expelled from shop-class though.
Find him riding a stolen BMX bike in Santa Rosa.
Charming, warm, impossibly heavy to move, Sir Hamilton is an esteemed resident at 114 years old. So old—Teddy Roosevelt could have huffed ether with him. A piano whose tone you could really find yourself in on a lonely night—or at least find a Buffalo Nickle. The ivory has gone missing on a few keys—and that’s real ivory folks. The low ends a little loose, but whose wouldn’t be after a century of play?
Find him here in Oakland!