Note By Note is a feature-length independent documentary that follows the creation of a Steinway concert grand, #L1037. It explores the relationship between musician and instrument, chronicles the manufacturing process, and investigates what makes each Steinway unique. _Watch the evolution L1037?from forest floor to concert hall _Meet the craftsmen and women who shape L1037?s personality _Discover the depths of artists? relationships with their instruments From the factory floor in Queens to Steinway Hall in Manhattan, each piano?s journey is complex?spanning 12 months, 12,000 parts, 450 craftsmen, and countless hours of fine-tuned labor. Filmed in key Steinway locations?the factory, Steinway?s reserved ?Bank,? and private auditions?Note By Note is the first documentary to portray the patience, craft, and personality built into each Steinway. Written by
If you were going to produce a documentary about the making of a piano, there are several directions you could go. You could produce an informative and dry blow-by-blow account, or you could do what this documentary does and provide enough technical details so as not to bore, but let the audience get to know some of the interesting people involved in the process.
The Steinway numbered L1037 is a 9-foot concert grand and the movie follows its year-long production from milling the wood to final roll-out. I had assumed that the making of a piano in the 21st century would be highly automated, but the amount of handcrafting involved in making this piano surprised me. Even the number L1037 is hand stamped into the wood. Steinway turns out about 2,000 pianos a year whereas other makers turn out up to a hundred a day.
As the movie follows the piano through its history we meet the craftsmen who lovingly work on it. Along the way we see people working on shaping the rim, sanding, fitting the soundboard, stringing the piano wire, finishing the wood, and tuning. When the plant lets out for the day and we see the workers heading home they look like working-class folk that you would see coming out of any manufacturing plant. But these people are highly skilled and specialized craftsmen who deal with millimeter tolerances. The recorded interviews document how devoted these workers are to their tasks and what a reverence they have for the product.
A number of musicians are interviewed about their relationships with their pianos. Among these are classical pianists Hélène Grimaud, the brilliant Lang Lang, and the fussy Frenchman Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Also featured are jazz pianists Marcus Roberts, Bill Charlap, and Harry Connick, Jr. After hearing these artist talk about pianos and do some playing I came away with a much better understanding of why each Steinway piano is a unique instrument. I got a kick out of people sitting down to play a few notes only to get up and announce, "This will not do." As fascinating as it was to hear the professionals talk, the most moving scene for me involved a teenager who, having selected a piano at a Steinway sale, awaited its arrival at his apartment with his parents and grandparents. I don't think I have ever seen a person so excited about getting a possession as this young man, and there was so much happiness in the room when he played for his parents and grandparents that it brought tears to my eyes.
The ending has Hélène Grimaud playing a transfixing performance of the Rachmaninov Prelude in G Sharp minor, Op.32, No. 12.
I am a woodworker with an appreciation for classical piano, so I may be biased, but I found this documentary absorbing from beginning to end.
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