Johann’s Piano

Mark Starlin
3 min readJun 13, 2024

Vienna, 1790

Johann walked into a room nearly empty except for an old piano, a small desk where Johann wrote his music, and a well-worn mattress for sleeping. He sat at the piano.

“My old friend, I have tried for years, but I am simply not good enough to secure a patron. How can I compete with that genius Mozart? Or Beethoven or Haydn? As you are aware, I have sold all of my other possessions. Now, I fear I will have to sell you to survive. My heart is breaking, but I see no other way.”

Johann began to play the piano. As he played, tears fell on the yellowing ivory keys. When he finished, he stood and walked toward the door, stopping in amazement when he heard notes coming from the piano.

A three-note phrase with the first note repeated. He walked back to the piano and sat down. The piano played the same keys again: D-A-D. Astonished, the man just stared.

Once more, the piano played D-A-D.

“This is impossible. How can you play yourself?”

D-A-D, the piano played.

“I don’t understand. Am I supposed to copy you?”

Johann played the same notes. D-A-D

Suddenly, every note on the piano rang out simultaneously, creating a loud cacophony of sound.