The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Smashing Design: Building the Rock Hall's Piano

Wednesday, July 17: 11:31 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Testing the "smashed guitar" built into the Rock Hall's piano.

This week, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in partnership with Play Me, I'm Yours unveiled a unique piano designed by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit designer John Sloboda. "The represented act of smashing the guitar through the top of the piano is an attempt to catch the 'lightening in a bottle' moment when something happens where there's a little bit of danger mixed with excitement," says Sloboda of the Rock Hall's piano design that features a guitar "smashed" into the top of the piano. "Plus, having the electric guitar with the piano feels a little more rock and roll, and seemed fitting because the Rock Hall sponsored the piece."

Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland International Piano Competition teamed up to present Play Me, I'm Yours, curating an interactive art installation composed of 25 uniquely decorated pianos that will be placed throughout Northeast Ohio, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The idea is to encourage people to meet, connect, communicate and express themselves through the shared experience of musical performance.

Dubbed "Black Magik," the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's piano was inspired by "a quasi-Voodoo/Americana mashup as depicted by the flames, snake, bones and incantation – a Creole welcoming prayer – that are spread throughout the whole thing: piano, guitar and bench," says Sloboda. "Even the tiny drawer pulls that sit over the keys are fashioned into tiny wood-carved skulls."

The whole piano body as well as the guitar and bench were completely stripped of their factory finishes and sanded to give the instruments a raw and distressed look and feel. Colors are subdued and washed-out. Not only is the piano meant to be played, but the guitar (a Strat-style electric guitar) is also fully functional – a feat that involved some creative engineering. Because the portion of the guitar body where the tone and volume controls, and pickup selector switch were located was removed to fit the guitar into the piano, many of the electrical components were rewired and moved to beneath the bridge of the guitar by Rock Hall preparator/exhibits installer Andre Sepetavec. "All you need to do is plug into an amp with power," says Sloboda. "As a happy accident, the tall back of the piano actually allows the guitar to resonate as if it were an acoustic, too. As long as you find the proper footing, two players can work this thing at once." 

Play Me, I'm Yours will be presented in Cleveland from July 19 to August 11, 2013. For more information on Play Me, I'm Yours, including piano locations around the University Circle area of Cleveland and hours, click here

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