Everyone remembers the chaos of their first few weeks at Columbia. For me, it mostly revolved around the grand piano that lived in the John Jay lounge. The piano was a prime source of bonding; it kindled conversations among musicians and non-musicians alike. Anyone was welcome around the piano, and everyone who sat down to play had a different story to tell through their music. During these first few weeks, the John Jay lounge saw countless jazz jam sessions, impromptu classical performances, and rehearsals. Thanks to its accessibility and visibility, the John Jay piano was a forum for practice, musical expression, and cross-pollination. It allowed for the formation of a welcoming first-year music culture within the first few weeks of our time at Columbia. However, the John Jay piano was short-lived, and the story of its disappearance is a testament to Columbia’s lack of commitment to its student artists....
In most writing handbooks, the golden rule is to avoid repetition. Renowned pianist Simone Dinnerstein, however, finds repetition worthwhile.
One evening last November, two nights before giving a Columbia recital, I wandered Dodge Hall’s linoleum halls—as I do many nights—looking for an open room with a piano. As a pianist, I can’t use the piano-less Carman practice rooms, I hate disturbing those studying in the residence hall lounges, and the pianos in Schapiro, Broadway, and East Campus can seem to be missing more keys than they contain. Searching for practice space is akin to setting myself up on a blind date with one of six rooms in Dodge with a functioning grand piano (there are more than 100 active Columbia pianists at any given moment)....
Dear people who practice the piano in public lounges,
There is something deeply unsettling about Ada McGrath, the heroine of Jane Campion's 1993 film "The Piano." It is not so much her voluntary silence that unnerves us—Holly Hunter's performance is so effortless and convincing that she makes speech seem superfluous. Rather, the eerie element comes from the malnourished, traumatized curve that her body makes as she shrinks away from nearly all human contact. At the outset, having been deposited unceremoniously with her daughter on an empty beach in 19th-century New Zealand, she can only communicate through sign language. Today, Ada would be considered forceful, powerful, and independent. But in her age of bonnets and corsets, she is merely oppressed as an oddity in a society that prizes conformity above all else. She has not spoken since the age of six, intuiting early that nobody really wants to hear what she might have to say. Even her physical presence on-screen—that tense, unrelenting pose—betrays a history of containment. Her relationship with the man to whom her father has sold her in marriage is strained and uncomfortable from the beginning. Complicating matters is the agreement that she develops with her husband's friend, George Baines, who acquires her only cherished possession, her piano, and negotiates for its return in exchange for a series of escalating sexual favors. George, the audience comes to see, is neither amoral nor violent, but simply emotionally deficient—he can only express affection physically. After he realizes that what he has forced Ada to do is deeply wrong, he returns her piano prematurely. She returns to his ramshackle cabin to, perhaps for the first time in her life, initiate sexual contact. Most directors would not have the courage to make their heroines fall in love with men who have abused them. But that is exactly what Campion does, and what makes "The Piano" unique. If we approach the story with the expectation that what Ada wants above all else is love, then her relationship with George is both disturbing and unsatisfying. But the relationship, and the power structure that previously defines it, transforms before the viewers' eyes. Ada, whether or not she realizes it, is only superficially interested in love. She is interested, rather, in independence. She subconsciously identifies the only man within her grasp who will allow her to have even a modicum of control over her fate. George himself does not matter, really. What matters is the freedom he will allow her. "The Piano" is an intensely, cerebrally feminine film not only because of its female protagonist, but also as a result of Campion's nontraditional approach to romance. If there exist films that could only have been made by women, "The Piano" is one. Campion's male characters are not one-dimensional or psychologically shallow, but they are certainly pathetic: Ada's husband is defined by his literal and metaphorical impotence, and her lover suffers from a severe case of arrested sexual development. They in no way represent the traditional ideal of masculinity. Ada, on the other hand, possesses a powerful will that personifies her intense desire for freedom. Her husband views this will as an incontrollable, alien power—he cannot comprehend that a woman could have desires of her own. Ada, too, refers to her will as an autonomous entity, but she trusts it—it never leads her astray and indeed ultimately saves her. In the world of "The Piano," feminine intuition trounces physical male power, rendering brute force ineffectual. So while it is theoretically possible that a man could have made this film, it seems extremely unlikely that any man would even attempt it. It is Campion's female perspective that gives the movie its extraordinary power. Despite our modern bias, Campion makes us believe that Ada, at the end of the film, has not settled for a second-rate life. She has overcome....