Heave-ho! Top-ranked university hurls pianos from its roof

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has long been ranked among the worlds top three colleges, usually the very top. Its redeeming grace is that it has always housed independent thinkers, some – like Noam Chomsky – from the world of classical scholarship.

But an MIT ritual, disclosed today, leaves doubts about its respect for civilisation.

Ever since 1972, it has been the MIT custom, once a year, to hurl a piano off the roof. What started as a pseudo-scientific jape has become a distinctive feature of college life.

Deborah Douglas, the director of collections at the MIT Museum, says she isn’t surprised that the piano drop has endured. “It fits the zeitgeist and culture of MIT,” she says. Read here.

Jeez. The piano brings joy to people’s hearts. No mater how poor its condition, it deserves better than sophomoric vandalism.


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  • MIT also has had a good music faculty, including John Harbison and Todd Machover. And while I never heard them, they probably have a very good student orchestra, too (lots of talented violinists who were smart enough to pursue physics and engineering careers instead of music).

  • Gordon Bennett! Not only do these yobs have the vote, they presumably have the time and energy to procreate. As a Canadian journalist once wrote: ‘America – the glory, jest and terror of the world’.

  • Thank you so much, Norman! I had no idea of this tradition and I’ll pass the link to every engineer I know. I wouldn’t consider it an act of disrespect for the piano, but rather a wonderful example of college-life-meets-crazy-experiments.

  • Old upright pianos are almost impossible to maintain and just about impossible to sell. The final disposition can be a painful, dragged-out exercise. Pay $200 to have it moved to a landfill after having your ad sit for months with all the other upright pianos on Craigslist? This is college dorm humor but I don’t know of a more dignified ending. At least there’s a certain spirit of exploration about it.

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