Another song tonight, this one from the awesome Wintergatan in a wonderful eclectic, single person, glory… including playing a saw! (And a bonus timelapse interlude!)
A beautiful voice
calling across the landscape
bringing us on a voyage
both to lands far away
and to our home deep in our hearts
So, there’s this story about Van Halen and brown M&Ms. Perhaps you’ve heard about it before. If not, the gist of it is that tucked away in the 53 pages of the band’s rider (a contract that lists out their requirements for the venue) for their 1982 show was a little gem: There was to be provided a bowl of M&Ms – which seems normal enough. However! There was a caveat: Absolutely no brown ones.
Which, on the one hand, seems like some weird arrogant stuck up super band celebrity weirdness and excess.
But, it wasn’t. There was method to their seeming madness.
The 1982 VH tour was a large and intricate affair, requiring equally extensive and complex setup. It was perhaps one of the largest rock concerts of the time. It required serious prep work by the venue to ensure that the show went off without a hitch (or without anyone being injured).
The brown M&Ms, then, were an integrity check.
If the band went into the dressing room and found brown M&Ms, they were tipped off that either the promoter hadn’t read the rider carefully – which is bad enough – or that the promoter’s integrity was lacking and that if this thing was missed then more important aspects of the setup might well have been botched. (Which meant the band would then spend the time to double and triple check everything.)
Integrity isn’t about morality; it’s about honouring your word as yourself. It’s also, more importantly in this case, about doing complete and proper work. And like on a racecar, even something a little bit loose, or missing, is not just a small ‘out of integrity’ – it will almost certainly cost you the race (and might lead to a crash).
Thus, the M&M rider. A small detail whose legend is as big as the band’s, and a great little story to latch on to as we ponder the meaning of integrity and our relationship to it.
Some amazing old footage from 1970 of Wendy Carlos demonstrating the classic MOOG synthesizer. No preprogrammed patches or sounds here — it’s all constructed though something that looks like a wild pairing of a sci fi starship bridge coupled with an old-timey phone operator switchboard. Also, no books or ways to save any settings, so you had to learn how to use it and re-create from scratch every time. The craziest thing? As an analog contraption, as the system warmed up (or cooled down) the sound output would change, thus requiring constant tuning as you played through a song or a concert. But it’s hard to overstate the MOOG’s impact on electronically generated music, and to see such a pioneer of the genre give a little demo is pure delight.
That picture alone is enough to pique my interest; a music room nestled within a roof shed, crowned by a skylight with linear LEDs for supplementary lighting. It’s exciting in its own right, even more so when you throw musicians into the mix. But that’s just the start! For it is part of a monastery that has been artfully turned into a music conservatory.
While the above music room is in a new wing, there’s plenty of great examples where old and new are mixed to create something special. Like the former cloister turned dining hall, roofed over in a sandblasted glass that makes the restored white plaster surfaces glow.
Or the hallways and stairwells, and the monastic cells/bedrooms…
Culminating in a second music room in the rafters, this time in the historical portion of the building, with light streaming down to accentuate the rough hewn lumber framing. And airy and mystical place for practice.
A wonderful piece of adaptive reuse, and knowing much I love adaptive reuse there’s no way I can’t fall in love with this. Great stuff.
It’s another amazing Vihart Pi day video! But beyond the usual excellence (including the quote from yesterday’s post), this one has something special in that she improvises about 30 minutes of music, based around the continual repetition of a sequence of notes.
And that aspect of it, the building of music around continual repetition, is really fascinating to me. When I saw Sigur Ros in concert, they played () track 9b (also known as Untitled Track 9b, also also known as Smaskfia). A track that is just a small piano bit repeated over and over and over and over. Yet it bored straight into my soul in a way I didn’t even know was possible. It was a mind blowing experience. (And they played it right before the intermission, so I got to just sit inside of that wonder.) In the video above, Vihart creates that inside the of repetition of notes, everything else involved gets heightened, be it the accompanying notes/harmony or simply the way it is played (and the emotion/feeling you can put into that). Which is something both cool and can be supremely moving.
(Also, if you haven’t seen Vihart’s magnum opus, 12 Tones, I highly encourage you to check it out as well!)
Wonderful scenery within wonderful nature with wonderful words (in Inuktitut, I believe) with wonderful music (created via sampling Inuit instruments).
Jean-Michel Jarre is no stranger to incorporating architecture into his concerts. Whether the office towers in Houston, or at La Defence in Paris, or the great pyramids of Giza, his epic outdoor concerts (sometimes with audiences in the millions) the buildings all become part of the show, both as more obvious backdrops for projections and lights and fireworks and as also acting as giant prosceniums, creating the very container for the concert itself.
So, even beyond my love of his music, it was with great excitement that I learned that he’d been invited to host a New Year’s Eve concert inside none other than the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris… well, sort of. The concert was held inside a virtual version of the famed cathedral, which allowed both for way more people to inhabit the space (plus, the cathedral is of course still under repair) and it allowed for his signature visuals to push beyond the boundaries of reality and physics to create effects that interacted with the building in amazing and novel ways.
And boy did they ever! The best effects were definitively the ones that played with the building, either interacting with the architecture or inhabiting it in a way that changed the experience of the space: boxes of light that enveloped the columns of the nave, long ribbons of light that hugged the form and changed the emphasis from the vertical to the horizontal, glowing orbs and objects that hovered high above amongst the stained-glass windows. All along with the usual bevvy of effects including projection mapping, shafts of light, and the video blocks that surrounded the virtual Jean-Michel on his stage at the central crossing of nave and transept.
Unfortunately… the official replay of the concert by Unesco and the City of Paris, both of whom were the generators of the concert, which I myself watched, is no longer available for viewing on Youtube. Not sure why they made it such a limited run engagement to view it, but they did. Fortunately, some who attended ‘in person’ (in VR) captured their experience and have made their recordings available:
An amazing concert, well worth watching. For me this was an extra amazing experience on several levels, for almost exactly 23 years earlier I’d visited Notre Dame de Paris on Christmas eve, getting to experience the architecture, the organ, and the choir all acting in glorious unison in the run up to Midnight Mass. To “be in” the cathedral again for a concert that was integrally tied and inseparable from the architecture was just fantastic. A celebration on so many levels.
A beautiful symphony/concert that wonderfully incorporates First Nations voices and languages… and just so many languages in total: Arabic, Dene, English, French, Inuktitut, and Southern Tutchone. Great, great work.
While the Voxman Music Building’s exterior is fine enough, it’s the spaces within where the project really shines, crafting some wonderful, inventive, and playful spaces that don’t neglect the other senses even as beautiful music is being made within them.
The main hall’s got this expressive ceiling that does triple duty of being a visual focus while also honing the acoustics and providing concealed lighting space.
And if you think I’m going to avoid mentioning the pipe organ on the back wall, well, not a chance!
Even better, there is an entire hall dedicated for pipe organ recitals! The extra tall space, accented by the recessed wood “arches” and clerestory windows does a perfect job of drawing attention to the instrument of choice, which itself is nicely contrasted yet complemented by the white lattice over the sound-absorbing wall, the tracery paring well with the leaf motif on the light wood organ.
But for me the greatest of these three is the fiery red recital hall, not the least of which because it is both asymmetrical and angled in floor plan, but also for the unusual feature of the giant windows that extend outward from the building’s façade, casting strong light over the stage and bringing out the complex geometries of the wall acoustic treatments, whether red on the one side or deep wood on the other.
There’s lots of great details and design twists happening throughout the new building, where nearly every space has been considered as spaces for performances. On the whole it’s a grand and exciting performance venue.