Piano-playing reached new heights at the 31st Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival held in January and February 2015, in the capital of Heilongjiang Province in the northeastern corner of China. The annual outdoor festival that originated in 1985 features intricately-created structures made entirely of ice and snow.
The 2015 edition of the Harbin Ice Festival, as the event is affectionately known, did not disappoint. This two-month affair held in the city’s Zhoulin Park featured majestic castles, dizzyingly tall towers, a ferris wheel, as well as slides that could really carry adults. However, what must have captured the imagination of the visitors must have been the huge piano keyboard with LED lights that actually produced music.
Unlike similar ice pianos commonly featured elsewhere, this installation did not present itself as a whole piano. It manifested itself as a giant keyboard featuring 21 piano keys that mimicked the keys of a real piano keyboard.
It was the brainchild of Li Xinghua and was carved from 40 cubic metres of ice harvested from Songhua River. Right from the opening of the Festival on 5 January 2015, this ice piano became an instant favourite. Part of its popularity might have been due to the size; it measured a mind-boggling 8 metres in length and 1.2 metres in width. Equally impressive was the fact that stepping the keys produced dancing coloured LED lights and soothing music from embedded speakers.
Children and adults alike evidently had their attention fixed on this unusual ice sculpture and musical piece. While children were presumably fazed by the dancing lights, it was safe to say that adults were mesmerised by the ingenuity of this invention.
The creator, Li, explained that he had produced this novel art piece by first laying a steel structure with LED lights on the ground and then placing ice blocks over them, with the help of grooves made with angled steel and iron plates. When stepped, the individual ice blocks made contact with the steel structure and produced moving lights, as well as music that corresponded to actual piano sounds. Li conceded that due to the sheer size of this piano and the slippery surface, it would be difficult for one person to play a complete solo piece. It would, however, be possible to play reasonably decent music with the help of a group of friends.
Probably the first such piano ever seen anywhere in the world, this magical ice piano quickly became a hit with locals and tourists alike. Despite the mish-mash of random music notes that did not even remotely resemble any piano compositions, visitors were content to just step and skip on the icy, larger-than-life piano keys on this humongous keyboard and watch neon-coloured lights illuminate the otherwise cold, dark winter nights.
Sometimes, simple pleasures in life can be fulfilling, too.