We relate to our things more than we recognise. As a result of a pact I made with my wife, we now have a piano (pictured left) in our lounge. It’s a lovely old mahogany piece, rescued from a skip by one of those strange and wonderful artisans who does for musical instruments what pet shelters do for animals.
My interest in the piano here is in what it reveals about the living arrangements in my house, since its arrival displaced an armchair. The chair in question was arranged, as so many are these days, to afford a viewing position on the television – the centrepiece of most contemporary lounges – although also so that the fireplace could also be focal in the winter. Because of the piano, the armchair can no longer be positioned where the TV is in full view, or indeed visible at all. Although initially a cause of consternation, I rapidly realised that this was no bad thing.
A person sat in the armchair is now insulated from the TV, and thus free from the hypnotic power this box possesses. I confess, in the pub I always try and sit away from the televisions because I want to talk to the people I am drinking with – yet the flickering sporting matches draw my attention like moths to candles, whether I wish it or not! The armchair not only creates a space liberated from the TV, it offers a more convivial arrangement for the room as a whole. A guest sat upon it can converse with those on the sofa comfortably, and if my wife decides to play the piano (currently hopelessly out of tune!) the new position is equally amenable.
Although I use a television for media consumption on a regular basis, I always aim to ensure it is only part of my experiential diet. Moving the armchair makes that easier. But were it not for the piano, I would not have been confronted with this aspect of my relationships with the things around me. How quickly we become accustomed to that which would seem strange to those who went before us…