The Piano Lesson
by August Wilson
The Piano Lesson Arts and Culture: Music Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue.
Avery: "You ought to put [the piano] down in the church and start a choir. The Bible say. 'Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.'" (2.2.45)
Here is a reference to another important form of African-American music – gospel. This form also developed during slavery. It was a blend of African music and the European hymns that the slaves' white masters exposed them to.
Avery: "Come on, Berniece […] Come on, play 'Old Ship of Zion.' Walk over her and claim it as an instrument of the Lord." (2.2.49)
Avery encourages Berniece to play the piano to help her get over all the painful memories she's carrying with her. This moment sets up the climax of the play in which Berniece does just that. She's not quite ready yet, but by the end Berniece will use music to wash away her pain.
Wining Boy: (Singing) "It takes a hesitating stocking in her hesitating shoe/It takes a hesitating woman wanna sing the blues."
Wining Boy sings this song in honor of his late wife, Cleotha. Since, this blues song was written for someone who has passed away, you could say that it is yet another call to the dead. In much the same way that Berniece communicates with the dead when she plays the piano, Wining Boy attempts to reach out to his beloved wife.