Russell and Duenes

Note by Note

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The dude sitting next to you at the ballgame with his New York Mets jersey, unkempt hair, and thick Manhattan accent just happens to also be the guy who fine tunes Steinway grand pianos.

The construction of a Steinway grand – which takes about a year to complete – is the subject of the documentary, Note by Note. This film is astounding on a number of levels, and left me in awe of the men and women who hand-craft these incomparable instruments. We watch month-by-month as the particular piano numbered L1037 goes from being a bunch of lumber to a finished grand piano, and in the process we are given a glimpse of much that our eyes never see when we look the finished product.

We realize first that in our world of low-grade mass-produced items, we have lost almost all appreciation for things that are hand-crafted with precise and superb skill and care. And this film serves as one small step in rekindling such appreciation. The people who build this piano take evident pride in their work, and leave the imprint of their own distinct craftsmanship on each one. The attention to detail and the ear for hearing how the instrument should sound is simply amazing. These people strive for perfection, and I couldn’t help but sense something of God’s pleasure in creating as I watched these people work.

Speaking of God’s pleasure in creating, we next realize something of the meaning of Paul’s words, “We are His workmanship” (Eph. 2:10). As you see the individual workers, laboring in painstaking detail over their particular contribution to the instrument, you can’t help but think of how God molds and shapes His children into the likeness of Christ, patiently and painstakingly adjusting, fine-tuning, correcting, and perfecting our lives. God truly is the Master Craftsman, so it is no wonder that His image-bearers seek to create excellent and beautiful work in imitation of Him. I was stirred to consider my own work in this world, to strive for excellence in all that I produce, to pour my soul into my labors, thus honoring the One who has made and is remaking me.

Finally, this film made me realize at least one of my hidden biases. I said to my wife, “If I saw and heard one of these workers sitting next to me at a ballgame, I’d think he was a ditch-digger or a trash-collector, not a master craftsman working on Steinway grand pianos.” This just goes to show my arrogance, and the all-too-narrow context I inhabit day-to-day. It was kind of cool to find out that a guy who wears a Pittsburgh Steeler’s jersey to work and sounds like a mob boss is one of the fine-tuners of each piano, making sure the sound is just right. A man should feel grateful if a movie explodes some of his stereotypes as this one did.

Most of all, the film was just downright pleasurable to watch, like eating a satisfying meal with a fine glass of wine. It was simply yet brilliantly shot and composed, bringing home the power of work excellently done, showing the appreciation by concert pianists for such labor. I’d watch it again.



Written by Michael Duenes

January 3, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Posted in Duenes, Movies

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