A music video featuring a blind performer playing an upright piano set on fire on a beach is a surprise viral hit in Russia. In line with a time-honored tradition, a defunct instrument was torched.
The music video, which was uploaded to YouTube on Monday, shows Danila Bolshakov, a performer from St. Petersburg, playing Max Richter’s ‘H in New England’ on a beach of the Gulf of Finland as the sun sets. The lyrical piece and tranquil facial expression of the musician contrasts with the state of the piano, which is being consumed by a raging fire. As the last ray of light vanishes and the music ends, Bolshakov stands up and walks away.
For Bolshakov, the front man of a four-person band comprised of musicians with impaired vision, it was his first attempt at making a music video.
“I just wanted to launch my YouTube channel,” he told a local newspaper. “The piano was slated for disposal, and we decided to use it for the video. Brought it to the beach and set on fire. It was scary and hot.”
Purists may criticize Bolshakov for using a studio record in the video instead of the actual sound made on site, but the heat from fire damages the strings and quickly renders pianos unplayable, as other performers with similar experiences, like Yosuke Yamashita, can attest.
The artistic tradition of burning pianos stretches back decades. New Zealand composer Annea Lockwood was a pioneer in the late 1960s with a series of performances called ‘Piano Transplants’, which involved burning, drowning, and planting defunct instruments. Her pieces are recreated regularly at art festivals.
Yamashita played burning pianos twice – in 1973 and 2008. The Japanese composer wore a firefighter’s uniform rather than a tux and blond wig in the style of Dmitri Hvorostovsky, which Bolshakov chose for his work.
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