Film Club: ‘Solo, Piano — N.Y.C.’

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“Solo, Piano — N.Y.C.” is a five-minute film that touches on themes of music, community and the items we choose to discard. This simple, but moving, Op-Doc video is told through a series of still photographs taken outside of the filmmaker’s window of a lone piano standing curbside in New York City and the interactions of passers-by as the piano awaits its fate.

What did Anthony Sherin, the filmmaker, want us to discover in this simply-told film? What can we learn from the fate of one discarded piano? How much do you stop and pay attention to the often strange and surprising world around you?

Students

1. Watch the short film above. While you watch, you might take notes using our Film Club Double-Entry Journal (PDF) to help you remember specific moments.

2. After watching, think about these questions:

  • What questions do you still have?

  • What connections can you make between this film and your own life or experience? Why? Does this film remind you of anything else you’ve read or seen? If so, how and why?

3. An additional challenge | Respond to the essential question at the top of this post: What can we learn from the fate of one discarded piano?

4. Next, join the conversation by clicking on the comment button and posting in the box that opens on the right. (Students 13 and older are invited to comment, although teachers of younger students are welcome to post what their students have to say.)

5. After you have posted, try reading back to see what others have said, then respond to someone else by posting another comment. Use the “Reply” button or the @ symbol to address that student directly.

6. To learn more, read “Solo, Piano — N.Y.C.” Anthony Sherin, the filmmaker, writes:

Making this film was pure serendipity. After a January snowstorm in New York City, I decided to do some work on another film, in my home in Washington Heights. But as I approached my desk, I thought I heard a piano plinking. I looked out the window and saw a piano on the curb below. I was mesmerized by the pattern that emerged. Passers-by would slow, stop and play. Some played well. All day long they collected and dispersed, and into the night they measured, shoved and deliberated the piano’s fate. (If it stayed on the sidewalk, the city could have issued a fine.) I was riveted. Pianos have histories. No one who stopped seemed eager to leave it behind. Their thoughts were obvious: Can we take it? Who abandons a piano? Is it worth anything?

I eventually started snapping stills and thought I would end up with just that — a lot of stills. To my surprise, I discovered after 24 hours that I had captured a story with a beginning, middle and end. My friend Art Labriola created an original piano score, and I had a film. It has screened at several festivals, and I’m pleased to share it with the world on Op-Docs.


Want more student-friendly videos? Visit our Film Club column.

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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