The Korean Ministry of Unification has joined forces with Cheil Worldwide, the advertising arm of Samsung, to unveil the strangely beautiful “Piano of Unification,” a project which commemorates Korea’s 70th anniversary of liberation from Japanese occupation, and aims to enhance interest in the national reunification of South and North Korea. The piano in question uses barbed wire pulled from the inter-Korean border (a literal symbol of the nation’s division) for its strings, and will be exhibited and performed on in public at Seoul Museum of Art in central Seoul. All of the wires used in the piano were taken from the border fence while some changes were made to one of the pianos to allow it a greater range and sound accuracy.
The Piano of Unification uses barbed wire pulled from the inter-Korean border (a literal symbol of the nation’s division) for its strings
After Korea’s period under Japanese rule between 1910 and 1945, the Korean War broke out in 1950 and lasted for three years, resulting in the division of the Korean Peninsula, which unfortunately still exists to this day. Tying in with the celebration of Liberation Day on August 15, the Piano of Unification also encourages Koreans to give thought to the possibility of national reunification and peace. The piano will be showcased in the lobby of the Seoul Museum of Art from July 21 to September 29 as part of the “North Korea Project” exhibition. The museum will also display various artworks that embody division alongside with the piano. Music performed with the instrument and video footage of its creation will also be introduced as part of the exhibition. Perhaps more excitingly, the piano will be played on stage for a concert on Liberation Day itself at the “70th Anniversary of Liberation Chorus Festival” held by the National Chorus of Korea.
The piano was created by the world music group “Gong Myung,” who are famous for designing and rendering creative instruments
Seoul Museum of Art, the National Chorus of Korea and Samick Cultural Foundation are all involved in the project, but the piano itself was created by the world music group “Gong Myung,” who are famous for designing and rendering creative instruments. Over three months, members of the group transformed barbed-wires from the DMZ frontline military camp into the new instrument. The piano boasts authentic design and sound, with the stark contrast between the luxurious grand piano exterior and sharp barbed-wire interior a unique talking point. The sound is definitely not that of a conventional piano, with the rusted wires giving out a sound closer to percussion than any keyboard instrument. It would probably sound great on a Tom Waits album!
The Piano Of Unification
Cheil Worldwide campaign director Songha Lee said of the project: “I came to realise that barbed-wires, usually a symbol of division, can represent peace. On the other hand, I remembered Christ’s crown of thorns made with border fence’s wires, was given to the Pope when he visited Korea last year. We launched the Piano of Unification with an idea to move people’s emotions by adding musical aspects to barbed-wires.” Koo Chun, art director of the National Chorus of Korea, added: “As it is a sound made with a symbol of division, the Piano of Unification has a significant meaning in terms of history and music. Like the Piano of Unification brings music out from the rough piece of iron, I will play the piano with a hope of realising our long-cherished dream upon this divided country.”
The Korean Ministry of Unification joined forces with Cheil Worldwide, the advertising arm of Samsung, to unveil the strangely beautiful creation
Park Seung-won, the leader of Gong Myoung, said: “Though it was a challenging undertaking for us to create a piano with the barbed wire, it was a rewarding and very meaningful process given that we could create a musical harmony for unification through the barbed wire of the truce line, a symbol of the tragic war and longstanding cross-border standoff.” He added, however, that the piano's creation was an incredibly physical challenge. He said: “The tension of the border wire is very strong, not to mention the rough, sharp points of the barbed wire. Everybody who was involved in the making of the piano has suffered cuts on their fingers. The toughest part was to get the piano to produce the exact sounds we needed. We initially aimed to give the piano a range of a little over one octave. But we have given it up to two octaves and produced a very unique sound.”
The piano will be exhibited and performed on in public at Seoul Museum of Art in central Seoul from July 21 and will be played in concert on Liberation Day (August 15)
As the video proves, the sound is unique indeed, and whilst the idea of using art of heal old wounds and remind us all of our own fleeting insignificance in the face of a world ravaged by injustice and suffering is hardly a fresh concept, the project really struck a chord with us (no pun intended). It's heartbreaking but inspiring, and the musical element really helps it sing (again with the puns).