The intriguing cultural history of the piano in Australia
From the instruments that floated ashore at Sydney Cove in the late eighteenth century to the resurrection of derelict heirlooms in the streets of twenty-first-century Melbourne, A Coveted Possession tells the curious story of Australia’s intimate and intrepid relationship with the piano. It charts the piano’s fascinating adventures across Australia – on the goldfields, at the frontlines of war, in the manufacturing hubs of the Federation era, and in the hands of the makers, entrepreneurs, teachers and virtuosos of the twentieth history – to illuminate the many worlds in which the ivories were tinkled.
Before electricity brought us the gramophone, the radio and eventually the TV, the piano was central to family and community life. With its iron frame, polished surfaces and ivory keys, an upright piano in the home was a modern industrial machine, a musical instrument and a treasured member of the household, conveying powerful messages about class, education, leisure, national identity and intergenerational history.
‘Michael Atherton cleverly weaves visual, sensual and sonic elements into the piano’s sociocultural history, adding a rich layer to our knowledge of the piano in Australia.’
—Professor Julia Horne, historian