In Astoria, Steinway Pianos Are Still Built to Last

Brooklyn-based freelance arts reporter Jeff Lunden (pictured) cranked out a tuneful item today for NPR’s Morning Edition. It was all about the history of piano maker Steinway & Sons and concerns in musician circles that a recent ownership change will affect product quality.

Lunden got assurances that all will remain the same. He also summarized the intricate, old-school process responsible at a factory in Astoria for each Steinway grand:

It takes 11 months to build a Steinway grand, which features 12,000 separate parts. The factory is a beehive of activity. In one area, thin laminates of wood are glued together and put in a press, to create the distinctive form of a grand piano. In another area, so-called belly men, put the sound boards into the case.

A cast iron plate is added, strings are added, the action — the hammers which hit the strings — is added. Pianos are tuned; five times, in all. Twice during this process, pianos are taken to a pounding room where a machine bangs on all 88 keys at once.

Lunden is especially qualified for this sort of musical reporting, since he is also a theater composer. In 1994, his music and Arthur Perlman’s lyrics for Wings helped the show win a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical. Lunden is currently at work with Perlman on a musical adaptation of the novel Swift as Desire by Laura Esquivel.

Listen to his full report here.

[Photo courtesy: NPR]

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.