Steinway & Sons, maker of high quality, award-winning pianos, was founded in New York in 1853 by German immigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, who later changed his name to Henry E Steinway. By 2000, they had made more than 550,000 pianos, each of which takes almost a year to complete. In 2010, on John Lennon’s 70th birthday anniversary, Steinway introduced a series of limited edition pianos based on the white grand piano Lennon owned. More than 1600 artists—including Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Daniel Barenboim and George Gershwin—have the title Steinway Artist, which means they have chosen to perform exclusively on Steinway pianos. Not only are Steinways notable for their sound quality, but their logo is instantly recognisable. It was designed by William Steinway and the current design was first used in 1955. I have noticed the typography of the logo before, with the S shapes and ampersand, but what brings it to my attention now is seeing Diana Krall, a Steinway Artist of course, play her set last night on the Sydney Opera House piano, logo in gold on the side facing the audience.
It’s the weekend, time to relax a little after a busy week. Put my feet up, have a glass of something, maybe even catch some live music. There’s a jazz lounge near me where the seating comprises plush old sofas and comfy low armchairs in an almost haphazard arrangement. It’s perfect for kicking back and enjoying the show, and I can picture this cool combo there, although they do seem quite at home on this brick wall. I like how the wall is painted black, evoking that low-light nightclub ambience, despite the harsh afternoon sunlight.
At first glance there is nothing special about the Tamworth tourist information centre building. Inside, the ‘Walk a Country Mile’ exhibit documents the history of Australian country music and, I confess, surprised me by being far more engaging than I expected. However, the real surprise came at the end, when I walked out the front door. The angle of the sun had shifted to reveal this dramatic shadow. The machine heads are ordinary spherical light fittings and the headstock is angled just as it should be, and on closer inspection I could see that the walls of the building were curved like a dreadnought.
My Melbourne Cup picks came in first and third, so while my token flutter has barely netted me enough profit for a celebratory drink, let alone a night on the town, I am still chuffed about winning. I could perhaps celebrate with a rousing rendition of The Tenterfield Saddler, a song made famous in the 1980s by Peter Allen, who wrote the ballad about his grandfather George Woolnough. There have been five Tenterfield saddlers since 1870. George Woolnough was the third, and plied his trade from 1908 until his retirement in 1960. The current saddler, Trevor Gibson, works from the workshop that, apart from general repairs, is still in its original condition, complete with this gold-painted and weathered cedar shingle.
The first book I designed for ABC Books, some years ago now, was Great Working Horse Stories, a book which was a bestseller thanks to its huge popularity in rural areas. Imagine my surprise when it made an appearance on music quiz show Spicks and Specks, in the segment called ‘substitute’, in which panelists have to sing songs using words of an unrelated text, and their team mates have to guess the songs. Pete Smith (voice of Sale of the Century) sang Sweet Caroline, It’s Not Unusual and Oh What a Night using the very book I had designed! The book title was set in Adobe Garamond, a serif oldstyle typeface. Adobe Garamond, released in 1989, is a digital cut of the roman types of Claude Garamond and the italic types of Robert Granjon.
I saw The Mavericks last night. Like most touring bands these days the package comes complete with merch, and it should come as no surprise that I would be impressed with the big black-and-red-M that features on one of their t shirts. It’s not their logo but it could be! The circus-inspired font so well fits their tex-mex-country-garage style, the obvious enjoyment they have on stage and inspire in their audience, and their generous performance and big sound.
This is a little off typographic topic, but I saw Radiohead this week and there’s no space in my head for anything else. I have been trying to think of a way to turn it around, work in something about type branding, album art or graphic design, but really I just want to say I saw Radiohead. Twice. I once dared to voice the opinion that, finally, here was a band better than The Beatles. I was met with stony silence and I’m still not sure if the person in earshot agreed with me or couldn’t believe what they were hearing. Radiohead this week has reminded me that I have seen some outstanding live performances over the years, so here, in chronological order with the most recent first, is my top five.
- Radiohead Sydney Entertainment Centre, and if I want to get specific the first show has the edge over the second
- Herbie Hancock and band, Sydney Opera House
- Elvis Costello solo show, Enmore Theatre Sydney
- John Lee Hooker Paramount Theatre Seattle
- Public Image Ltd Hordern Pavilion Sydney