A Date at the Pianola Museum

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I remember visiting Amsterdam’s Pianola Museum just a couple of months after our family first moved to the Netherlands. To be completely honest: I was not impressed.

Pianola Museum Ticket

The place just seemed like the overcrowded living room of a collector who was crazy about player-pianos (which may or may not be all that far from the truth). He showed us a couple of knobs and gave us a long explanation of how the machine worked — though our Dutch was such that we could only understand a fraction of it at the time — and then he played us a couple of different rolls on a couple of different machines. Not that exciting.

But yesterday was very different. My perspective has no doubt developed considerably since that initial visit to the Pianola Museum. But the circumstances were also drastically different. It was just me and my lovely wife, out on a date (no squirming one-year-old on our lap, while the kind old curator talked about his beloved pianolas). Our language skills allowed us to understand everything that was being said. And it also happened to be a film night at the Pianola Museum. In a word, yesterday’s visit to the Pianola Museum was… charming.

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It was us and perhaps a dozen other people, together with the curator of the museum and another pianist who took turns playing live- (human-driven) and mechanically-driven piano music while fragments of black-and-white silent films danced from a projector in the back of the room to a screen in the front. The evening’s theme was “Silent Comedies,” so we got to enjoy everyone from Charlie Chaplin, to Buster Keaton, to Laurel & Hardy, to Rin-Tin-Tin.

It was a lovely date with my lovely wife.

Experiences such as the “Pianola & Film” evening at the Pianola Museum help me to realize how much I’m going to (eventually) miss Amsterdam. The city is filled with hundreds of quirky little venues for a broad range of interests — and just about every night of the week there is something going on. There is something truly unique about riding bicycles down the Westerstraat in the Jordaan to sit inside a tiny little museum for an evening of silent film entertainment. It’s going to be hard to replicate that experience elsewhere.

So I savor it now, while I can.

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