Posts tagged with "Music":

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Boston Symphony Orchestra gets a sunlit series of performance spaces for its Tanglewood campus

The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) may boast one of the most luminous performance halls on the East Coast thanks to a recent $32.5 million expansion at its Tanglewood campus in Lenox, Massachusetts. William Rawn Associates (WRA) has added three spaces spanning 24,000-square-feet to the Linde Center for Music and Learning, all flexibly designed as a nod to the firm’s seminal 1994 Seiji Ozawa Concert Hall, also on site.  The last time the 524-acre campus (where BSO has spent its summers since 1937) was put on the map was when WRA designed and completed the award-winning venue years ago. Now, with a new performance and rehearsal pavilion, as well as a 150-seat cafe that doubles as a cabaret room, the center will support BSO’s year-round program, the Tanglewood Learning Institute. Not to mention that these structures are the first climate-controlled buildings on the bucolic campus. In an interview, William Rawn and Clifford Gayley, both principals at WRA, said their “modernist impulse” is evident both in their 25-year-old Ozawa Hall, as well as in the four contemporary spaces built last year. Most importantly, though, their buildings feature clean, simple lines and were designed with a similar sense of place like the other structures on campus that were designed by modernist architect Eero Saarinen. “Saarinen’s work promotes a sense of simplicity, almost elementary," said Rawn and Gayley, "a real sense of transparency and a connection between the inside and the outside.” WRA’s 21st-century vision for Tanglewood aimed to echo that sentiment. Using a primary material palette of glass and wood, they were able to integrate stunning views of the Berkshire Hills from the multi-studio pavilion, cafe, and patio while also allowing light to energize the interiors. The largest of the spaces, a 270-seat performance and rehearsal area called Studio E, can house over 90 members of the BSO during shows. At more informal moments, a 50-foot-tall retractable glass wall on the stage side can open the space up to the elements, and allow visitors to walk in to listen to the practice sessions. Two of the three studios also have this feature.  According to Rawn and Gayley, this informality of setting—combined with the intensity of the music—is embodied in the new architecture. “There’s a sense of democracy, an egalitarian feel, that everybody is welcome,” they said. “The sense of connection between a rehearsal studio that has a barn door opening out, or Ozawa Hall, with its open back wall that allows the music being made to waft out onto the lawns.” Reed Hilderbrand built out the seamless landscape surrounding the Linde Center and added over 120 trees, 300 shrubs, and 10,000 square feet of woodland ferns and perennials. A large birch grove was planted in a courtyard garden in between the new structures and WRA created a windy pergola alongside the cafe.
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PSU architecture students build wooden apple bin towers for Pickathon Music Festival

Now in its sixth year, Portland State University (PSU) School of Architecture students designed and built a repurposed and reusable, sky-high temporary performance venue for the Pickathon Music Festival in Happy Valley, Oregon. This year’s Treeline Stage, one of six at the festival, suggests an “orchard of towering trees,” taking inspiration from the structure of apple blossom but built from 160 wooden apple-harvesting bins. The project includes a series of seven towers, each made of roughly 15-to-30 harvesting bins and reaching a maximum of 40 feet tall. Positioned evenly around the site, the towers offer space for audio equipment, a backstage area, and space for food vendors and seating. During the day, sunlight drapes the towers and create imposing shadows as the sky moves. Toward sundown and at night, the towers glow from the inside with projected light and controlled colored LED lights that line the interior of the harvesting boxes. PSU School of Architecture faculty members Travis Bell and Clive Knights led the 40-plus students, alumni, and volunteers through the project’s design and construction. Their concept, “diversion design-build,” refers to mass-produced, construction-related materials that are diverted from their usually industrial purpose and then sent back for reuse following the end of the festival, like the apple harvesting bins. Previous Pickathon projects used materials like cardboard tubes (2015), wooden trusses (2017), and dimensional lumber (2016 and 2018), among others. This year, the harvesting bins were lent by a Pacific Northwest fruit producer and the wooden column structures and thousands of screws were reused from previous stage productions. The students’ inspiration for the overall site strategy and architectural design originated from seasonal and botanical patterns, as well as the number five. The towers have pentagonal clusters of five bins, purposefully stacked to suggest a collection of blossoms in a grove of trees. “A preponderance of five is prevalent in the life history of an apple," the students wrote in their designers’ statement about the project. "There are five sepals around the calyx, five petals in the flower, five stigma, pistils, and ovaries. Upon pollination, these ovaries develop into seed compartments, bearing five seeds, and each pod of five flowers has been stacked to create branches across the site. Composed as a tableau of blossoms, the orchard aligns at pivotal moments behind the stage and from each of the two entrances.”
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Björk enlists Arup engineers to design musical chamber for her latest tour

When I visited Arup’s New York offices, I was taken from the sunlit open areas on the fifth floor, down some stairs, through dark corridors, and into a windowless room with painted dark walls. There was a projector screen, someone by a computer, and a person in all black sitting off to the side. In the center of the room was a black leather swivel chair, semi-orb shaped and raised high. I was invited to sit. I said that the whole thing felt ominous, like I was being interrogated, but given that I was the interrogator in this situation, maybe it should’ve felt more like I was some B-movie villain, looking over some empire through digital screens. But this was no evil lair—this room was Arup's SoundLab, one of many across the firm's global offices, each varying in design but all with identical sound systems and sonic experiences. “Basically, you are currently sitting in a room that uses what's known as an Ambisonic sound system,” explained Raj Patel, the person in all black and a global leader of acoustics. "What the Ambisonic sound system does is it allows you to simulate sound in three dimensions. There's also a measurement technique that allows you to go and measure an existing space, capture its acoustics in three dimensions, and play it back here." It was in rooms like these that experiments were done to create a new sort of architectonic instrument in the form of a reverberation chamber for none other than Icelandic superstar Björk. “[Björk] often described two different voices that she uses for singing,” explained Arup associate and acoustic designer Shane Myrbeck, who had Skyped in from San Francisco to join the meeting. “One is the one she uses on stage, that's through the microphone, through the PA, and that's a specific emotion for her. And then there's the other voice that she uses when she's singing by herself or in a nice acoustic room.” She wanted to bring this latter experience to the stages she’ll be performing at as she travels on her Cornucopia tour, which is organized a bit like a series of theatrical residencies and began with sold-out shows at The Shed earlier this May. While Arup and Björk had been in conversation at multiple points over the past few years, the reverberation chamber was imagined just last year and was designed and built in under six months. “She was very focused on it sounding right first,” Myrbeck recounted. “We often work with architects, so there's a form to study or a palette of forms to study. In this case, our initial question, was ‘Okay, what do you want it to look like?’ And she was like, ‘Don't think of it that way. It needs to sound good first.’” Myrbeck said, “She wanted it to be as reverberant as possible…We kept using words like chapel or alluding to the cathedral-type sound.” However, cathedrals derive their distinctive sound in large part from their sheer volume, something that obviously couldn’t easily be toured across the world and mounted on any given stage. Still, “there are some precedents out there in the world,” explained Myrbeck. “Before they had digital reverbs, they would literally just have these concrete rooms in the basement and put a loudspeaker down there and just send the sound down to these chambers and record that. That was the old reverb effect. And those are pretty small rooms.” Another reference was the large-scale sculpture Tvísöngur, located on Iceland’s east coast. Opened in 2012 and designed by the German artist Lukas Kühne, the installation comprises five large concrete domes that echo the incoming wind at various harmonies. However, both of these examples were made of concrete, an unrealistic material to make a relatively large, but still easily transportable, chamber for stage out of. “[The reverberation chamber] needed to be something that she could tour with,” said Myrbeck. “A lot of the simulations that we did were materials studies.” The team used Rhino models with acoustic software that simulated the known resonances, derived from nearly a century’s worth of data, of different materials, like concrete, acrylic, plaster, and others. Inside these simulated environments the team at Arup used a sample of an isolated vocal track Björk had recorded for them and sent her the various ways it would sound in spaces of various materials and shapes, which she listened to on headphones in her own studio, and later, in a SoundLab. “One of the other things about a small room is that, just due to the size of acoustic waves, you get these very specific resonances in different places,” Myrbeck said. He compared it to the weird sonic effects of singing in your shower. In rooms like the SoundLab, where we met, one of the central design challenges is to minimize those effects in order to create a sort of neutral room that can simulate any space—whether an amphitheater, a train hall, or a small lobby. In the case of designing Björk's reverberation chamber, “it was just about embracing [those resonances] and trying to make them as evocative as possible so that Björk could experiment with those different resonances in the different places that she could stand in the chamber." Rather than eliminating all this sonic unevenness, the goal was to give the singer the power to "activate" it. In the end, Arup and Björk decided on an 16.4-foot-high, just-under 10-foot-wide octagonal structure with flat sides and a vaulted roof of molded plywood. There is one central microphone, while a few others are placed around the top perimeter. The design is modular and can easily be dis- and re-assembled. It also uses common materials: plywood and a plaster composite, about an inch thick, that has a similar density and resonance quality to concrete. These are materials that are easy to repair on the fly (while the roof is molded, the walls are just standard plywood sheets). The automated door and the transparent cutaways are acrylic, about an inch thick, while the floor is plywood and is slightly elevated so that it has its own resonant properties. The reverberation chamber has simple bolted connections that allow it to “be as airtight as possible while still allowing her to breathe freely,” protecting it against acoustic leakage. Björk will even invite inside the shows' flutists, whose own bodies reshape the resonant qualities of the compact chamber. “It's very much an instrument,” Myrbeck said, and serves as a way to literalize emotional shifts in the performance. “I think that one of the exciting things about the design process [with Björk] was her really sophisticated blend of the acoustic and natural and almost ancient tradition—there's not much more ancient than singing; it's one of the oldest forms of expression—and her embracing of the very futuristic, state-of-the-art digital technology," said Myrbeck. "The design process expressed that as well.”
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AN interviews Hamilton set designer David Korins about the show's exhibition

It has already been a busy year for creative director and set designer David Korins. Hamilton: The Exhibition, which Korins served as creative director of, opened on April 27, bringing an immersive 18-room exhibition to Chicago’s Northerly Island; that same week, the stage adaptation of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, with sets designed by Korins, opened in New York on Broadway. Hamilton: The Exhibition dives much deeper into the life and history of Alexander Hamilton, the person, than the stage show (which Korins also designed the set for) and expands on topics that were overlooked in the musical, such as slavery and Hamilton’s legacy after his death. To help guide fans through the exhibition, an audio guide narrated by original cast members Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton), Phillipa Soo (Elizabeth Schuyler), and Christopher Jackson (George Washington). The show, which is currently staged in a 35,000-square-foot black “hangar,” was designed to be mobile and will eventually pack up and leave for other cities after an undetermined run time in Chicago. The $13.5 million exhibition actually cost $1 million more to open than the musical it’s based on, but much of that owes to the show’s high level of technological integration and attention to detail. Guests can take an interactive tour through famous scenes from Hamilton’s life, engage with games, and even watch a 3D version of the musical’s opening as it was performed in Washington, D.C., with Miranda at the helm. Tickets for Hamilton: The Exhibition are $39.50 for adults and $25 for children. Korins also served as the creative director of Treasures from Chatsworth, a show at the renovated Sotheby’s New York headquarters that will run from June 28 through September 18. Art from the Chatsworth House in England, owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, will be juxtaposed against supersized versions of minute details from the home that could easily be overlooked. AN recently caught up with Korins and asked him to break down how he was able to realize his two most recent projects. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. How did you go about translating a show that works around one set into an exhibit with 18 full exhibition rooms with branching paths and interactive multimedia? David Korins: Well, it was harrowing. Although, the Hamilton exhibition is decidedly not Hamilton, the show. We had way more content to deal with. In a way, using Hamilton, the man, as our through-line and as our lens into early America was helpful because it helps crystallize the story that we're telling. There's enough information about the founding of early America that we could have made an exhibition just on George Washington, or Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison, or anyone. In a way, the stage show, which obviously spans about thirty years across countless locations was one thing. But we had to use a whole bunch of artistic compression in order to make that show a dramatic piece of theater. What we wanted to do with the exhibition museum was to really able to go in to deeper and wider into the entire story of America and really kind of right the wrongs of the dramatic lives that we tried to mimic in the show. It's easy conceptually to say, "let's expand this thing into 18 or 20 galleries" because there's just so much more information. It was nearly an impossible task artistically to try and actually execute it because a stage show has no ceiling on it, there's no fourth wall, there's no wall between the audience and the performers. In this exhibition, every one of these things is a complete room. I know it's more about Hamilton the man, but it does seem like some of the rooms, this writing desk room for instance, tie into songs from the show. How did you balance how much of the musical should be in the exhibition versus how much should focus on history and Hamilton's life? DK: First of all, we're not trying to distance ourselves from the show. We, in fact, have a completely remastered, re-orchestrated, rerecorded score in every one of the galleries. I think if you look at the New York City gallery, it is very reminiscent of the architecture that I designed the stage show with. I would say that much of the spaces employ the use of very abstract, theatrical design, visual vocabulary. Part of that is because I'm the one designing it, creating it. A part of that is because you can't realistically recreate all these historical locations. Nor do I think that that would be necessarily interesting. I think one of the things that we told ourselves in the very beginning of this process was to try and do what only we can do. And then there are moments that are wildly abstract where there are swirling pieces of parchment paper floating up into a work cloud over your head. So we tried all that we could do, and I thought for two years about what I want each one of these rooms to feel like and what story we are trying to tell.
Changing gears to Beetlejuice—that's a movie where the scenery is constantly shifting around. Looking at the photos from the set, it seems like you had to reinvent the same stage multiple times during the show. How did you translate Tim Burton's aesthetic for the stage without reusing it wholesale? It doesn't exactly match the house in the movie, but I see there are references to his other work sort of scattered around.
DK: As far as technical difficulty, I will agree with what you said, and I will tell you that the show is by far the most technically challenging thing I have ever done, and it's by far the most technically challenging show I've ever seen. If the Hamilton exhibition was the biggest and most ambitious project I have ever worked on, which it certainly was by a lot, Beetlejuice was the most complicated one. That show, every single piece of scenery has a light in it, a special effect, a magic trick, a puppet pole, a speaker. Some crazy thing going on inside of it. How do we incorporate the world of Tim Burton? I think that Tim Burton is one of the great visual artists of our time. I think when you are asked to do a Tim Burton project you have to honor it and acknowledge it and try to keep up. Beetlejuice the musical is very different than Beetlejuice the movie. The thing about it is we have a whole bunch of different physical parameters, so we have to take those into consideration as opposed to making a movie. First of all, the play runs eight times a week and we can't cut away, we can't dissolve, we can't have a puppeteer just out of frame or anything like that. We have to make this thing work seamlessly for a bunch of live people in a room. Beyond that, I thought that it would be interesting to honor Tim Burton's kind of overall visual aesthetic, not just the Beetlejuice one. You have Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline—we have tons of references. So we’re storytelling in a very different way. You can't have an actor be in a different costume every single scene. We're telling the story at a much broader, more muscular gesture. How did you design a set that would be so easy to shift in such shorter amounts of time? DK: I guess the short answer is: we're geniuses. Just kidding! I think it was very important that the Maitland's home felt different aesthetically than the Deetz's home. And that the Deetz's home felt different than the Beetlejuice home. So we had to ask ourselves, what could we possibly change in six minutes of stage time, or ten minutes of stage time? And how do we do that? We came up with a really ingenious wall system that we would be able to sub out. The changing of the furniture and the mantles and the window frames and the light fixtures is exactly as you would imagine it. A lot of manpower is back there doing these, like schlepping stuff on and off in a perfectly choreographed ballet move backstage. The wall systems are similar. There are prefabricated sections of wall that click in on top of or below other sections. And they literally have to go in and every single section of wall gets changed out. I see a lot of detail went into even just the small touches in the wallpaper, sculptures, sconces, and all of that. DK: Every single piece of scenery, every single wallpaper, every single piece of furniture, every single graphic was hand-drawn. And I don't mean “hand-drawn” like drafted. I mean, literally hand-drawn, even what we drafted with architectural drawings so that they could build them and engineer them. We then went in and we hand-drew all the wallpaper. We hand-drew all the etching and the lines on all the molding so that everything single thing had a really homemade kind of quality to it.
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Porch Life, a building-sized instrument, lands in Detroit

A little bit of New Orleans’s music and architecture scene will touch down in Detroit this weekend with a music house’s residency at the Dabls MBAD African Bead Museum. 'Porch Life' is a 22-foot-tall mobile touring installation, conceptualized and built by New Orleans Airlift, a nonprofit arts organization. New Orleans Airlift is best known for The Music Box Village, an artist-built sculpture garden based in New Orleans and “a place where play, imagination, experimentation, collaboration, community and hard work come together.” The organization has been using common household architectural features as musical instruments. Porch Life, like other Music Box productions, features 11 musical instruments built into the multi-story home that professional and novice musicians can use. Handrails become harps; windows become percussion instruments; porch swings act as metronomes. It is the first mobile musical home that the organization has created, however, measuring 16 feet wide by 22 feet tall by 21 feet long and weighing 6,000 lbs—a hefty weight for a truck to tow. The project originally started off on Kickstarter, raising and meeting its goal of $14,000 to bring the house to life and on the road, hitting New Orleans’s Jazz Fest 2018, the Eaux Claires Festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Detroit, and New York City. It will then return home to New Orleans to be incorporated into the Music Box Village. Fresh from Eaux Claires Festival, Porch Life's Detroit residency starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 14 and will be open to the public, free of admission until 7 p.m.  
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Brian Eno composing soundtrack for U.K. pavilion at 2017 Astana Expo

From June 10 to September 10, "We Are Energy" will be on show at the 2017 International Exposition in Astana, Kazakhstan. Though its name may sound like a Brian Eno number, We Are Energy is indeed the work of British architect, Asif Khan, whose pavilion houses an immersive, 360-degree CGI display screen. Eno is composing a soundtrack.

Echoing tones and shades of Spielberg's Minority Report, Khan's ephemeral work will feel like a dystopian Lazer Tag setting, except without the shrieking and zap-sounds as neon blue lights form a rotunda of sorts in the 23,600-square-foot space. This shell will be manufactured off-site. When put in place, it will be encircled by a screen that leaves space for visitors to walk between the two circular objects.

The shell itself is semi-permeable for most of its perimeter. People can see through the volume and place their hands between the light rods that fan down, though only actually enter the space at one point. The screen, meanwhile, acts as a visual barrier, tracing the shell's enlarged perimeter at eye-level and displaying a "timeline of energy."

To complement the design, musician Brian Eno has composed a piece to accompany the experience. Titled "Future Energy," the score will play on a continuous loop. In a statement on his website, Khan said:

The universe was formed 13.8 billion years ago. At that moment all energy and matter was in the same place at the same time. The idea that everything, including life on earth, is comprised of this archaic energy is fascinating to me. I wanted to find a way to express this relationship to our visitors and explore how energy is being continually harnessed and balanced around us.
Professor of Astrophysics Catherine Heymans, from the University of Edinburgh, has also contributed to the project. As reported by the Architects' Journal, Khan's studio is working alongside KBW Designs and Woo.
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Motown Museum prepares for major $50 million expansion

Hitsville U.S.A., the home of Motown Records and the Motown Museum in Detroit, Michigan, is on the road to a major expansion. When completed, the Motown Museum will have an additional 50,000 square feet of interactive exhibits, a state-of-the-art performance theater, new recording studios, more retail space, and additional meeting spaces. The design for the addition is being led by Phil Freelon of Perkins+Will, in collaboration with Detroit-based architect of record Hamilton Anderson Associates. The visitor experience and exhibitions are being designed by Maryland-based Gallagher & Associates. Phil Freelon’s work for Perkins+Will often focuses on highlighting the contributions of African Americans to American history and culture. Freelon was part of the team that designed the recently completed National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. “What has been happening in the U.S. for the last 24 months reminds me of the social and political upheaval of the late 1960s,” says Freelon in a press release. “It is critical that we as a nation see past our differences, focus on our commonalities, and unite to advance a single, shared cause: equality for all Americans.” The Motown Museum will take this vision of the past seriously be preserving the original Hitsville house, with a campus of buildings around the iconic location. The city, design team, and the museum see the $50 million project as more than just an investment in the museum. The hope is that the expansion will have a very real impact on the surrounding community and Detroit as a whole, bring jobs, tourists, and pride to the New Center neighborhood. “Our goal is to bring the expanded Motown Museum to the world, to inspire dreams and serve as an educational resource for global and local communities while creating an international mecca of music and entertainment history,” said Romin R. Terry, chairwoman and CEP of the Motown Museum. “This expanded facility will be an exhilarating national and international tourist destination which will allow us to narrate and celebrate on a much larger scale what the Motown legacy is recognized for: Unmatched creative genius that transcends every barrier imaginable by bringing people together from all walks of life to share that unmistakable Motown sound.”
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Soon this VR venue will let you rave from the comfort of home

Queue up your best dance tracks because (techno)logy will soon make it easier than ever to home rave. Music broadcasting group Boiler Room has teamed up with Inception to open the world's first virtual reality venue. The two enterprises will produce made-for-VR events in the London space so listeners can Source Direct content or sweat Midwest fresh without leaving home. Boiler Room is best known for its music live streams where dancers can be seen grooving in sweaty rave caves behind some of the world's most talented DJs. Like an internet-age MTV, the company archives the sets online so dance music fans in New York can sample Japanese grime or take a quick getaway to Acid Camp in the Poconos: In a statement on Business Wire, the broadcasters explained the significance of their new venture for far-flung fans who want to jack: “Most of Boiler Room's audience is made up of global online users who tune in to watch music events they can’t attend in person. We’ve always been driven by using technology to showcase the music we care about in the most authentic way we can.” Shows will be accessible through Inception's app. Although music fans will have to wait until early next year to home rave, VR right now is merging the digital and the physical with shocking fluidity. This year, artist Tamiko Thiel unveiled a VR installation at the Seattle Art Museum that imagines life in the climate change–burdened anthropocene while The Guardian used VR to help viewers empathize with prisoners in solitary. Earlier this month, Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) debuted a VR-enhanced exhibition at the Jewish Museum's just-opened Pierre Chareau exhibition. At that show, DS+R uses archival photographs and prints to recreate Chareau's interiors in digital space. "Virtual reality provided the perfect opportunity to re-spatialize these artifacts, these pieces of furniture,” firm principal Elizabeth Diller told The Architect's Newspaper (AN). On the West Coast, firms like Gensler are using VR to communicate project concepts for the new Los Angeles Football Club stadium, a move that is "basically normalizing the technology as a design tool."
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Artist to create first real-life “Vaporwave Mall” in Miami

The artist Aileen Quintana is creating an homage to internet cultural relics and the dying American mall in an installation for this year’s III Points Music, Art & Technology Festival in Miami. The “Vaporwave” genre has been called “the internet’s collective nostalgia”: a grouping of the various IRL ("in real life") ephemera that defined the activities supplanted digitally by the World Wide Web, like shopping, waiting in line, and listening to muzak in elevators. (Note: Vaporwave is very different from vaporware.) Art and music produced within the Vaporwave genre dabble in a mix of surrealism, kitsch, and nostalgia. Quintana’s “Vaporwave Mall” takes inspiration from the genre directly and will feature a bazaar of clichés from consumer-oriented, recreational capitalism to outfit a collection of fashion storefronts and art installations at the festival. Preliminary images of the installation show brightly-painted mannequins and the wire rack scaffolding used to display merchandise in mall outlets. The creativity festival, which Quintana cofounded in 2013, will take place in Miami's artsy Wynwood neighborhood between October 8th and October 10th, 2016 and will feature Quintana’s “mall” as a key installation. The artist told the Miami New Times this week, “Conceptually, it’s like couture club kids. I have the opportunity to associate the fashion component to the audio component and create this hybrid where the art is vivid and the creativity is more because it’s influenced by music.”
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Tradition versus modernity in Venice, and that time Pink Floyd played St. Mark’s Basin

On July 15,1989, Pink Floyd held a concert in Venice in front of more than two hundred thousand people. Framed in the foreground by the city’s famous twin columns—of its patrons, St. Mark the Evangelist and St. Theodore of Amasea—and in the background by Andrea Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore, the band performed from a floating platform in the middle of the Venetian lagoon, while the assembled crowds filled every inch of St. Mark’s Square, the adjoining Piazzetta, and waterfront Riva degli Schiavoni, and even jostled for a front row seat in an ever-growing carpet of boats moored within the lagoon itself. A particularly striking aerial photograph presents the scene a few hours before the band took to the stage, “mechanically repeating,” as Roland Barthes would put it, “what could never be repeated existentially.”

Yet the romantic, almost fantastical nature of this moment is somehow misleading: In spite of the popularity of the concert—a “Night of Wonders,” as certain sections of the press described it—the event provoked an outpouring of opprobrium in Venice’s always tempestuous political quarters. A number of the city’s municipal administrators viewed the concert as an assault against Venice, something akin to a barbarian invasion of urban space. Other voices, such as the local architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri, were equally vitriolic. Lecturing at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV) in 1993, just a year before his death, he spoke of how he despised the concert for being nothing more than a “postmodern masquerade”—the epitome of the frivolous discourse that characterized culture in the 1980s—and for the physical damage it had wrought on the city.

The idea for the performance had originated with Francesco (Fran) Tomasi, the band’s Italian promoter. “For their 1989 tour,” Tomasi recalled, “Pink Floyd were looking to perform in peculiar places. At the time, my office was in Venice and so I had the idea of organizing a free concert to coincide with the Feast of the Redeemer, the Redentore, in which the local population, rather than the tourists, always take an active part. The band immediately loved the idea.”

The Redentore, held annually on the third weekend of July, was initiated in 1578 to celebrate the end of the terrible plague. At sunset Venetians invade St. Mark’s Basin, from where they watch a fireworks display while bobbing up and down in their boats. In the 18th century it was also common to see gondolas and the smaller sandoli carrying musicians who entertained the crowds before the fireworks. It was this aquatic musical accompaniment that Tomasi hoped to recall with his own concert. The sheer scale of the event, however, called for a corresponding increase in the size of the musical boats. In the end, individual vessels were recast as a vast floating stage, 318 feet long by 79 feet wide and 79 feet high.

Preparations for the event, billed as the latest stop in the band’s “Momentary Lapse of Reason” tour, gathered pace. RAI, Italy’s state broadcaster, agreed to a live broadcast of the show. The big day drew closer. In June 1989, after a fiercef debate about the profanity or acceptability of such an event so close to the Redentore festivities, the city council finally granted its approval (in a democratic vote that went against the wishes of the mayor, Antonio Casellati).

Just three days before the event, however, Margherita Asso, Venice’s superintendent for cultural heritage (nicknamed the “Iron Superintendent”), vetoed the concert on the grounds that the amplified sound would damage the mosaics of St. Mark’s Basilica, while the whole piazza could very well sink under the weight of so many people. Tomasi had to think fast. He quickly offered to turn down the volume on the thousands of speakers and to move the stage back 98 feet, in an attempt to dampen the ardor of the crowd. Asso remained unconvinced, and it was not until the arrival of the three band members on July 13 that a so-called compromesso all’italiana (Italian-style compromise), involving decibel levels and crowd fencing, was secured and the concert could go ahead.

The show lasted just 90 minutes but lived long in the memory of those who witnessed it. The next day the local paper, Il Gazzettino, carried the headline “Grandi Pink Floyd, Povera Venezia” (“Great Pink Floyd, Poor Venice”), juxtaposing appreciative accounts of the show with images of St. Mark’s Square covered with litter and young people sleeping rough in doorways. No real damage had occurred, but the city woke with a distinct “after-party” look. The political reverberations were more far-reaching, and a few weeks later the local government fell.

Of course, Venice has a long history of political farragoes, just as it does of floating, ephemeral architectures, from Alvise Cornaro’s almost surreal 16th century proposal for a theater and artificial island on the lagoon, or the triumphal arch built near the church of Santa Lucia on the occasion of Napoleon’s visit to the city in 1807—a project famously depicted in a painting by Giuseppe Borsato—to the floating bath constructed by Tommaso Rima in 1833 and moored off the city’s Punta della Dogana, and, most celebrated of all, perhaps, Aldo Rossi’s highly poetic Teatro del Mondo, built in 1979.

Tafuri’s first edition of the Renaissance book, Venezia e il Rinascimento—published in 1985, just a few years before Pink Floyd’s floating stage (also witnessed from the Piazzetta)—articulated a characteristically political argument in presenting the history of Venice as a constant battle between those who wanted to restructure and renovate the city (whom Tafuri dubs the primi) and the traditionalists who only wanted to uphold its established principles and structures. The book was not written as a contemporary allegory, at least not explicitly, but the parallels are obvious, not least in the ongoing clash between the more progressive Venetians who defend the Serenissima’s artistic patrimony but also endorse more modern solutions, and those who seem only to consider the city as a kind of frozen museum. Like many entrenched oppositions, the two sides are actually not all that different, but the debate centered (and still centers) on striking a balance between the city’s delicate ecology and its economic viability. In this debate, tourism and spectacle are both the agent of destruction and the city’s salvation.

More than Palladio’s San Giorgio, then, this was the real backdrop to the Pink Floyd concert, confirming the music promoter Bill Graham’s famous adage, “politics uses and abuses rock music.” Even Mason himself revealed the ambivalences and overlaps endemic on both sides when he admitted, “I must say I like the idea of carrying on a tradition rather than being totally unique.” It was no coincidence that 1989 was also the year Venice was preparing its bid to host the 2000 European Expo, which was expected to attract upward of two hundred thousand visitors a day and act as a springboard for a new, modern city.

The project was backed largely by Italy’s Socialist Party (PSI), and more particularly by Gianni De Michelis, then the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Ranged against them were the traditionalists, including a number of key members of the opposing Christian Democrats, who were keen to block the expo bid by whatever means. If the former group had secured an initial victory in clearing the way for the smaller, metonymic rock concert, the latter soon took their revenge, using Pink Floyd as a Trojan horse to point to the city’s inability to accommodate a crowd. In fact, this apparent inability was not unconnected to the city’s refusal to provide either city cleaners or portable toilets for the concert. The day-after hangover, depicted in all its squalor by the local newspapers, had therefore actually been designed.

Despite his passion for Renaissance architecture and enduring fondness for Cornaro’s seemingly perverse theater project, Tafuri, as we have seen, was vociferous in his objections to both the Pink Floyd concert and to Venice playing host to the European Expo. For Tafuri, the theatricality of both events concealed a darker ambition to transform the city into a purely political and economic object. Venice, he countered, is a particular city that negates the possibility of an absolute modernity—a theme he returned to repeatedly, but especially in the same 1993 lecture in which he lambasted Pink Floyd.

In this talk, presciently titled “Le forme del tempo: Venezia e la modernità” (“The Forms of Time: Venice and Modernity”), he argued that the concert relied not only on the splendor of the city but also on the perfectly Italian splendors of blackmail and bribery, and the ascendancy of economic and media interests. However, perhaps because this was the school’s Lectio Magistralis (the inaugurating lecture for the academic year), he concluded more optimistically with the notion that the imago urbis of Venice is sacrosanct and impossible to recalibrate, ending defiantly with “The battle is not yet finished.”

But in many ways the battle has finished, and is one that has seen a victory of sorts for a kind of synthetic Venice that is both traditional town-museum and a contemporary hub—for what are the vast cruise liners that today pass through the Grand Canal if not a recalibrating imago urbis fundamentally reliant on both the historic and the commercial? And what, for that matter, is the Venice Biennale if not a repeating ritual that under the theatrical guise of art and architecture maintains a thriving, even defining, economic model? The vast numbers of people these different tourist attractions draw in dwarf all of the figures ascribed to that moment in July 1989 when Pink Floyd ended their set with “Run Like Hell.” The historian in Tafuri would no doubt see this as further confirmation of all those Italian splendors, and in this, as ever, he may well be right.

Léa-Catherine Szacka is also the author of the forthcoming book Le Concert with Sara Marini, which will be published by Editions B2 in 2017. A longer version of this paper was originally published in AA Files 69, 2014: 12-17.

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Canadian music finds a new home at Calgary's National Music Centre

Looming over 4th Avenue in Calgary's East Village is the new home for the National Music Centre (NMC). Known as "Studio Bell" and designed by Brad Cloepfil of Portland and New York-based firm Allied Works Architecture, the 160,000 square foot structure comprises two volumes connected by a skybridge.

Clad in terra-cotta, the building appears to shelter the historic King Edward Hotel, a venue renowned for its jazz scene. As for Studio Bell's programming, five levels are dedicated to exhibition space, displaying more than 2,000 objects of musical memorabilia and significance meant to inform and inspire visitors. Here, emphasis will placed on Canadian music.

In addition to this, recording, teaching, and event spaces, along with galleries, will be available for workshops and other programming. The galleries will be adaptable, doubling-up as low-key performance venues while alterable for the needs of exhibitions. A Canadian Music Hall of Fame can serve as a performance hall for an an audience of 300 people. The centerpiece of the building, the hall offers mobile acoustic walling and overlooks the lobby.

“They turn their heads; they’ve never seen a building like this in Calgary and I think a lot of people never expected such a building to ever be built in Calgary,” said NMC president and CEO Andrew Mosker. “We invented an institution,” said Brad Cloepfil. “[Mosker] had a dream of an institution that was more than a museum, kind of more than everything. A kind of music institution that doesn’t exist—education, performance, everything.” “Entering from the street, the building is filled with the reverberation of voices and music, drawing visitors up into five floors of performance, exhibit, and collections spaces,” Cloepfil added. “The apertures at each gallery create a threshold of sound, introducing the content and programs of the particular exhibition. The spaces between are filled with silence, with views that frame the city and landscape beyond.”
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A New Orleans nonprofit is crowdfunding its own "Musical Village"

Since 2011, New Orlean's The Music Box has been mixing the creative disciplines of music and architecture, and in the process, winning over locals and musicians such as singer-songwriter Thurstan Moore and Wilco. Started by local artists Delaney Martin, Taylor Shepherd, Jay Pennington, the project was born out of the nonprofit arts organization New Orleans Airlift. https://ksr-video.imgix.net/projects/2468154/video-675844-h264_high.mp4 The project, which sees artists and locals create "musical houses," has witnessed numerous iterations over its lifetime. Previous versions having been rebuilt with locations in Tampa, Shreveport, and even in Kiev, Ukraine. Now however, The Music Box team is looking for a permanent home for where architecture intersects music: The Musical Village. The Musical Village would continue the organization's  growth within the NOLA community and would open this October. To fund the scheme, a Kickstarter page has been set up with a goal of $60,000 required for the project to become a permanent installation. So far "musical houses" have already been built in the Bywater, only a stones throw away from the projects original site. According to the organizers, the village has its eyes set on becoming a "landmark cultural destination, and a place to grow up in for this city’s children. As an interactive art park by day, and a one-of-a-kind musical venue by night, we know that The Music Box Village will be a site for renewable creativity, learning and play, and a wonderland of awe and inspiration for years to come." Last year, The Music Box hosted the Roving Village, a six-week-long installation that saw more than 10,000 visitors and numerous artists including Wilco, Solange Knowles, William Parker perform in City Park, New Orleans. So far, the project estimates that approximately 30,000 have engaged in the scheme.