Very few people get to bring their childhood fantasies to life. If those fantasies involve unique, monstrous creatures that earn national recognition while staying your friend forever, you might as well forget about it. That is, unless you’re Adrian Mann, creator of one of the world’s largest pianos. After adventures all across New Zealand, the Alexander Piano—an nearly 19-foot behemoth Mann started building at age 15—has recently returned to its creator’s workshop.
It all began in 2004, when Mann stumped his piano teacher with a question. In pianos, the bass strings are wrapped with copper wire in order to deepen the sound without requiring extreme length. He wanted to know: without the copper, how long would the bass strings have to be in order to sound the right notes?
“She didn’t know the answer,” he says, and Mann—who, as a child, built a treehouse with running water and a working phone system—was used to figuring things out on his own. “So I thought, ‘Well, I’ll find out.’” He bought some piano wire, strung it up in his backyard in Timaru, New Zealand, and started plucking. “The length was so long—22 feet or something—but the sound was so amazing,” he says. Right then, he knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to build an enormous piano.
Like all dreams, Mann’s required a lot of help. A neighbor lent him her garage for building space. (“I had been wanting to build a small clavichord,” he…
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