Movements that move, in turn

The ripples of unintentional kinetic collaboration

written by fiona

A closeup of abstract painterly stokes on canvas. Alas I didn’t capture any footage of this moment.

published on April 18, 2022

About to cross Hobrechtbrücke I encounter a man playing a small upright piano the back of which is brightly painted, brush strokes visible. There’s no cover so the hammers are exposed, which I find mesmerizing. I stop and join the small group who’ve gathered to watch.

Swirling kaleidoscopic melodies are coming from the player’s hands running swiftly up and down the keyboard, as if the piano were a harp. Next to him, a young man in a white t-shirt and black Converse skate shoes is moving to the music. His brow glistens with sweat, the sun is actually hot today, but his face is serene. He dances thoughtfully, his body mirroring the delicate, shimmering sounds. Off to the side, a third man sits on the ground with a typewriter, hammering away on his own keys, back against a lamppost. Not part of the main scene, but a conspicuous side character. There’s generous applause when the performance ends, a reflection of joy in hands coming together. I drop a couple of euros in the collection box as I continue over the bridge.

On my way back I pass by the same spot and the two men are still there, standing together, talking. I overhear a snippet of conversation which leads me to believe that the collaboration was unplanned. The dancer was literally moved by the player’s beautiful music, I just couldn’t help myself, he says.

This got me thinking about how such small movements, like the player’s fingers traveling across the keys in public, can conjure a remarkable situation. In this case they unintentionally compelled an entirely separate consciousness to break from whatever he was focused on and express the sounds in motion. And this improvised collaboration in turn encouraged passersby to stop moving and pay attention for a moment.

Maybe the ripples end there, or perhaps this encounter inspires further creation. At the very least it was a bright spot for myself and everyone who witnessed it. Except for the old man walking his bike who was visibly bothered that they were in his way.

I imagine the pianist offering to share the money he collected because the combination of their interaction was certainly more powerful and engaging than he would have been alone. The dancer politely refuses because, after all, he imposed himself. Instead, he proposes they meet up again and keep moving together. A lasting creative friendship is formed.

Also, I’m curious what the guy with the typewriter wrote.

written by fiona

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