The Strange Case of the Haunted Piano

Working in a shop that sells pianos, one is gradually inured to the musical endeavours of small children. Not for us a joyous rendition of 4’33”; instead we are generally treated to some of Stockhausen’s less poetic creations, sometimes accompanied by parental entreaties of, “Be gentle, Molly!” and “Careful, Henry!” but, more often than not, completely disregarded by the supervisory adults (who seem strangely seasoned to the musical inventions of their infant prodigies – much as if they worked in a music shop, in fact). Thus it is, thus it will ever be.

And so it was that, at around four in the afternoon, as I was on the way out of the door to fetch some milk for our afternoon tea, I was unsurprised to hear another Mozartian genius hammering away at one of our pianos – the very expensive one which lives by the door. We had had a large family in the shop only minutes before, playing away at the pianos, strumming the ukuleles and generally bustling loudly around; but they had left. Thinking that one might have been left behind, I turned to see if I recognised the child. Only, there was no child. There were, in fact, no children in the shop at all – and yet the piano was playing on, a Stockhausian (to coin a term) rhapsody that used the whole range of the piano keyboard, and which was being produced by no human hand…

This is the point where I should point out that my shop sells only digital pianos – and digital pianos have a recording facility as part of their basic software. Still, it took an unreasonable amount of time for me to realise that the piano was not, in fact, haunted, but merely playing a repeat of some long-forgotten work that had been accidentally recorded onto its memory drive – and it was with great pleasure that I informed my colleagues of the arrival of our piano’s unexpected supernatural guest, and to watch their faces as they, too, realised that there was no child in the shop. “How is it doing that?” was their wondrous cry. In our defence, it was the end of a Saturday.

Disappointingly, by the time I had come back from the grocer with the milk the piano had been exorcised, and the ghost lingered no longer. But it was fun while it lasted.

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