Monday, January 04, 2010

The Piano Bench Conundrum

The Piano Bench Conundrum dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, when pianos first began appearing in the parlors of prosperous middle-class homes. The Conundrum relates to the fact that while one is sitting on a piano bench, the sheet music stored inside the bench, beneath the hinged seat, is inaccessible.

If the person playing the piano wants a piece of sheet music that is stored in the bench, he or she must first stop playing, stand up, turn around, open the bench, and then hold the lid open with one hand while leafing through the sheet music with the other. Or, the pianist can attempt to open the bench and hope that it stays open on its own while using both hands to search for the desired sheet music, though this technique carries the risk that the bench seat will fall on the pianist's hands, rendering them inoperable in the short term for piano playing or much else. In either case, the pianist must reverse the entire process before he or she can begin playing again. As the time expended to retrieve additional sheet music is totally unproductive from the perspective of someone deriving utility from playing and/or listening to piano music, we can safely classify the imputed value of that time as a dead-weight loss.

Normally, in a free market, such an inefficiency would be expected to attract a variety of potential solutions from entrepreneurs hoping to "cash in" by providing an easier way to retrieve sheet music. Yet despite substantial innovation in recent decades in the realms of both interior furniture and musical instruments, the Piano Bench Conundrum continues to plague the home pianist and the concert virtuoso alike.


Vida said...

You hit a nerve here. My piano arrived with a bench that *doesn't* open. So all our books are stacked on either side of the book rest. I had been lurking on craigslist for another storage bench, but no luck. I don't really get your post, though. Why do you need to hold open the bench lid? How does it fall on your hands?

C - Log said...

You are correct to wonder. It would appear that this analysis failed to recognize the development in the early 1980s by PARC researchers of dampened or "Sta-Put"(TM) hinges, which do indeed allow the lid to remain open on its own, provided local wind speeds are below 30 knots.

We here at Cheeze Blog thank you for writing and for raising this issue. Good luck with your search for a storage bench and with all your musical endeavours.

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