Clavier Companion - May/June 2017 - 64
The Steinway That Wouldn't
Budge: Confessions of a
Piano Tuner, by Peter Tryon.
My piano-as far as I know-only
contains the standard hammers
and such, plus perhaps the occasional penny or pencil. Other
people's pianos...well, let's allow
author and piano technician
Peter Tryon do the honors:
In pianos over the years, I've discovered pens,
rulers, umbrellas...a pet snake by the name of
Gilbert, and, on one occasion, £2000-worth of
sovereigns (the owner's grandfather hadn't had
much faith in banks). Pianos nearly always tell
you something about their owners-especially if
the owners are slightly mad.
Tryon has discovered other things in pianos, too-a
dead budgie (parakeet) and a live "fat brown rat"
with "yellow teeth," for starters (thereby hangs a tale/
tail). And did I mention the Steinway embedded in
Englishman Tryon-whose logo bills him as "The
Piano Tuna"-has been a musician and piano technician for more than thirty-five years, and his memoir
engages the reader from the opening sentence. His
anecdotes, he assures us, "are 90% true," and they
are filled with entertaining detail and calculated puns
(the poor dead parakeet is described as "shredded
tweet"). He invites us to tag along as he tunes the
piano at a naturist camp, does battle with angelic-looking choir boys whose thoughts are of "the utmost deviousness," extinguishes flaming sheet music,
and-peacefully-meets his future wife.
But the highlight of the book is Chapter Three,
"Working with Animals." The budgie and the rat make
their appearances, as do a Springer Spaniel, a Labrador Retriever, and a rooster. (I won't spoil the rooster
story, except to say it is rated PG, and blood was shed.
You might not want to read everything in this book to
your students.) In Chapter Nine, "Eerie Tunings," Tryon relates his encounters with the piano that played
itself, the piano that temporarily shared space with its
owner's dead mother, and the coypu (large rodent)
that interfered with Tryon's transport of four used instruments.
Although published in the United Kingdom, The
Steinway That Wouldn't Budge is readily available
online. At a brisk eighty-six pages, reading the
book is the work of a weekend morning, or even a
plane trip. Tryon would be a captivating traveling
companion. (Austin Macauley, 86 pages. Available
at Amazon in hardcover, $16.99; paperback, $8.95;
and Kindle, $5)