Music is Complicated

I've seen two outstanding documentaries lately, each of which underscores the staggering complexity of the world we live in by highlighting the minute and indistinguishable (to me, anyway) variables that go into making a thing of beauty.  Each is also basically a 1-hour commercial, but you'll be really glad you watched.

First up, Cry Baby - the story of the famous "Wah Wah" pedal.  If you don't know what this means, the trailer should bring you totally up to speed.  The aforelinked full-length movie is just a fascinating study of this revolutionary invention.





Next, the story of the making of the Steinway L1037.  That is, a particular piano numbered L1037.  In it, we follow this piano through the factory, trace its roots back to a lumber yard in Alaska, and generally marvel at the ingenuity, tradition, and patience required to manufacture one of these masterpieces.

In addition to the insights into how tedious it is to make a piano by hand, we also get to hear a number of pianists describe in their own words what makes each piano unique.  Not just what makes different makers' different models different; but what differentiates a basement full of essentially identical Steinway grand pianos from each other.

We hear from Lang Lang, Harry Connick, Jr., and others; but the highlight for me is watching - over the course of several scenes scattered throughout the documentary - a particularly fastidious Frenchman try to pick his instrument for an upcoming show at Carnegie Hall.  If the Steinway employee who is guiding this pianist around ever rolled his eyes, the cameras didn't catch it.  Truly, a work of great patience and understanding.