Flood Creates Some Sour Notes at Music School

by ekramer on August 21, 2009

The flood of August 4th caused massive damage to the University of Louisville, and President James Ramsey estimates the cost at about $15 million. While most of the damage was to utilities and campus buildings, it also caused problems with the pianos in the university’s School of Music. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer produced this soundscape taking you from the school’s basement to its practice studios.

There are sounds of footsteps on stairs and of a work site.

My name’s Rob Perkins. I’m with Dane Sheet Metal. The water basically just saturated the duct work that’s on the lower level. We got to tear it out. It’s very big. It’s in 20 foot sections. It’s extremely heavy. That stuff when it’s put in, it’s not made to come back out. So, we got to cut pieces and then we have to refab them, remake them.

The sounds of the work site fade.

I’m Christopher Doane and I’m the dean of the School of Music at U of L. Flooding through some of the utility tunnels underneath campus took out our air handlers. From not having the HVAC restored to the building really until later this week in fact, we have the byproducts of not having dehumidification in the building. And we knew that the tuning would go wacky on the instruments, because humidity affects the wood, the wood begins to swell, things become sticky. Keys don’t work as well. Dampers don’t work as well.

Chopin’s Nocturn 1 is being played on a piano.

My name is Dror Biran. And I’m a professor of piano at the School of Music. This is a Steinway L. Steinway is the top of the line. They are grand pianos of course. And in the past week or so, it became a little bit more stiff to play.

The music fades to sounds of keys being hit repeatedly as someone tunes a piano.

I’m Nevin Exxex. I’m the staff piano technician for the School of Music. This flood all happened, now we have to get 100 pianos ready for the start of school. So, we hired two other tuners to come in and help me get them all in tune. So, we’re all busy tuning six to eight pianos a day. It wears you out because you’re having to kind of think math all day long, pounding with our hands and listening with our ears. So, six pianos a day is more than full time. There’s no way I could do all by myself in this amount of time.

A soundscape from the University of Louisville School of Music, where pianos damaged by the August 4th flood are being readied for the fall semester. It was produced by WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer.

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