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Yosuke Yamashita - Burning Piano 2008

Tell some people that you're going to set a piano on fire and then start playing it and they'll ask you "Why?" What sort of a stupid question is that? The fact that it is obviously an awesome thing to do seems to bypass them entirely and then they start on about what a waste it is, and how disrespectful it is, and how someone else could have made much better use of the instrument. Absolute rubbish. You wouldn't ask an old viking warrior to put on a dinner jacket and entertain diners with some polite mealtime jazz. No, you'd stick an axe in his hand, look him straight in the eye, and let him know that it's either him or you.

A burning piano is a fearsome adversary. You can't do this sort of thing lightly. For this recording, taken from this YouTube video, Yamashita dons full protective gear and sits at the keyboard as the flames roar overhead. It's performed on a beach in Shiga, and someone should really have checked the weather forecast first, as the wind is blowing the smoke right into his face. You can hear the moment when one of the timbers cracks and the flames really start to get going: it's then that tuning is irrevocably altered. From there, it a race to the finish, as Yamashita tries to wrest as much music from his instrument before it fails him, or he can no longer continue.

In the end, he manages five minutes, and by that time the only strings that are working are for the very top note of the keyboard. Without doubt, this is one of the most exciting performances you're ever going to see. I really would recommend the YouTube version, as without seeing the very real danger of this performance you really are missing part of the story. This is a re-creation of the original Burning Piano piece that Yamashita made in 1973. I guess he just has a thing for a real fire.

Yosuke Yamashita - Burning Piano 2008
(alternate download)