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Particularly for those who own one at home, pianos are more than just basic musical instruments for many people. But bidding them farewell can feel like you're throwing away a treasured heirloom when they start to deteriorate and lose their playability. Thankfully, David Cox, an Australian sculptor, has created a substitute that raises this exquisite instrument from the ashes. The artist creates sweeping sculptures in the shape of phoenixes out of the keys and other components of broken-down pianos.

Cox talks about how architectural salvage and the recycling of difficult-to-find materials, particularly when those materials have historical significance, inspire him. He tells My Modern Met, "Objects we adore hold many of our most treasured, sentimental memories." 

“I honour and preserve those memories shared with loved ones around the piano by delicately repurposing its parts into a wall sculpture, reclaiming its place as the heart of the home. (Also it’s about 200kg lighter).”

Even though his works are now highly valued, Cox's transformational art almost happened by accident. A musician buddy of his was constructing a recording studio and desired an enjoyable artwork that could also function as a sound barrier. Cox had an idea to glue old piano keys together since he had some in his studio. But the design he was envisioning was not materialising. He remembers, "I quickly realised that piano keys aren't straight; they're kind of dog-legged." "I was experimenting with shapes one summer afternoon when I noticed the wing shape emerging, and I knew then that this was what this needed to be." 

He has now created more than fifty of these phoenix sculptures, for both individuals who wish to have one on their wall and those who wish to convert their piano. It is less common, but the latter gets to select from the pieces Cox has available. "To make the sculpture entirely bespoke, almost every piece is made custom for each buyer, with their own decor and personal interests in mind," he says. "I believe I can create an artwork that pays tribute to both the piano from which the keys originated and the house it will be placed in after we had a conversation over a cup of tea." 

According to Cox, every Australian appears to own an outdated piano that isn't playing anymore. He says, "They are really sentimental pieces, but they are inevitably broken and on their way out." Fortunately, this has led to some positive word-of-mouth and piano keys being shipped to him from across the nation. In just a few weeks, he can have a sculpture completed after discussing the design with the owner. "Yet I hang every piece on the wall of my living room for a week, just staring at it until I'm happy it's flawless and finished," the artist says. 

Even though his sculptures may appear similar at first glance, each one has distinct details that have a deeper meaning. Every customer tells a unique story about their memories of Nanna teaching them to play or enjoyable family moments spent around the piano, making each one unique from the last, according to Cox. They are all just as unique as one another, but when I hang a piece on a customer's wall and everyone starts crying, it can get emotional for everyone. It's a heartwarming experience to be a part of. I suppose my favourites are the ones that are more poignantly revealed." 

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