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Disgruntled Masters

Disgruntled Masters
Mr. P.C. By

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

Is it okay to grunt or hum while playing the piano? I'm looking for a career in jazz but don't have any musical talent, but I'm pretty sure I could figure out a way to remaster the great tunes from the likes of Oscar and Erroll to exclude the annoying 'hum' from their recordings. 

—Peter from Poughkeepsie


Dear Peter:

What few people realize about grunters like Oscar and Erroll is that they always made those sounds, whether at or away from the piano. As a result they weren't allowed in libraries, churches or movie theaters. They were often kicked out of high-end restaurants, where half-eaten food would produce sputtering rhythms, and wine would be swallowed with a medicinal gargle. When they slept, snoring coupled with their grunts to produce nightmarish dissonance, banishing them to the living room couch.

But their most embarrassing moments of all came in public restrooms, where defecators in adjacent stalls would grimace in sympathy. While their managers made sure their riders demanded roughage in the green room, they never developed the taste, being more "meat and potatoes" style players.

Keith Jarrett also makes his noises whether seated at the piano or wandering free outside the concert hall. But he draws from a broader palette of body sounds, in keeping with his more modern and stylistically diverse sensibility. Like Oscar and Erroll, he's banned from libraries and churches, but unlike them he's welcome in certain movie theaters—specifically pornographic ones.

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