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A Brief History Of Pianos Dropping From The Sky

Pianos are usually associated with elegance, harmony and grace. But, sometimes, they can also be linked to chaos, destruction and absurdity. Throughout history, there have been several occasions when pianos have fallen from the sky, either by accident or by design. These occurrences create spectacles of sound and fury that both fascinated and bewildered many.

Photo by Kjetil Hope on Pexels.com

Operation Piano Drop

One of the earliest examples of pianos dropping from the sky occurred during World War II, when the American military decided to air-drop pianos for their troops stationed in remote areas. The idea was to provide some entertainment and morale boost for the soldiers who were fighting in harsh conditions. The pianos that fell from the sky were from the first delivery, which was done by launching the pianos on parachutes on top of equipment to tune the piano. Also include was the sheet music of a series of compositions, so that soldiers could play popular songs and patriotic hymns.

The project was called Operation Piano Drop, and it was initiated by Steinway & Sons, a famous piano manufacturer that had been producing pianos for the US government since 1941. Steinway & Sons had to modify their standard pianos to make them lighter and more durable for the air-drop. They also had to paint them olive drab to camouflage them from enemy fire. The pianos were nicknamed Victory Verticals or G.I. Steinways.

The operation was a success, as many soldiers reported enjoying the music and the novelty of having a piano in their camp. Some even used the pianos as a way to communicate with the locals or to impress their dates. However, not all pianos survived the drop, and some were damaged or destroyed by weather, fire or enemy action. Some pianos also landed in enemy territory or in inaccessible locations, making them useless or dangerous.

The Piano Drop of 1968

Another example of pianos dropping from the sky happened in 1968, when a group of artists and musicians organized a surreal event called “The Piano Drop” in a small town near Seattle. The event was inspired by a previous incident when a piano fell off a moving truck and made a loud noise that intrigued the artists. They decided to recreate the experience by dropping a piano from a helicopter on a pile of wood in front of a crowd of thousands. The event also featured a performance by Country Joe and the Fish, a psychedelic rock band that later played at Woodstock.

The Piano Drop was intended as a Dadaist spectacle, a form of artistic expression that challenged conventional logic and aesthetics by creating absurd and nonsensical situations. The organizers hoped that the piano would land on the wood pile with a resounding crash, creating a musical cacophony that would shock and amuse the audience. However, things did not go as planned, as the pilot lost his nerve and dropped the piano too early, causing it to implode with a dull thud. The crowd was disappointed, but some still appreciated the humor and irony of the situation.

The Piano Drop was also significant as it paved the way for the Sky River Rock Festival, which was held later that year on a nearby farm. The Sky River Rock Festival was one of the first outdoor rock festivals in history, featuring bands like the Grateful Dead, Richard Pryor and Big Mama Thornton. The festival attracted tens of thousands of people who enjoyed the music, the mud, and the freedom of expression. The Sky River Rock Festival is considered to be one of the precursors of Woodstock, which took place a year later.

These are just two examples of how pianos have fallen from the sky in history, creating memorable moments of art, music and culture. Pianos dropping from the sky may seem like a bizarre phenomenon, but they also reflect human creativity, curiosity and courage. Perhaps they also remind us that, sometimes, we need to let go of our expectations and embrace the unexpected.

This article, A Brief History Of Pianos Dropping From The Sky, originally appeared on TomSlatin.com, on July 10, 2023.

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American Writer, Photographer, and Website Designer. Oxford comma enthusiast. Former career Fire & EMS Lieutenant. She/Her/Hers. Lesbian. 🏳️‍🌈

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