August 4, 2007

Music and architecture.



Architecture: The Humanities Building, UW-Madison (justly slated for destruction).
Music: Gamelan!

12 comments:

Kev said...

Gamelan music is really unique and fun to listen to. Was the one you saw an authentic Javanese group, or some of the music students from the university? They had a gamelan for a few years when I was in college (our percussion department boasted over 200 students, so it was easy to find members for the group), and it sounded pretty close to the Javanese group we had on a recording at our campus radio station. (I played a short track from that on my morning radio show one time; it must have been a really unusual way to wake up for anyone who had their clock radios set to us.)

So now that I've written about the music, does that mean I also have to dance about the architecture? ;-)

Mr. Forward said...

Keep the Gamelan, the building's got to go.

Theo Boehm said...

Just to second what Kev said.

A well-played Gamelan, especially of the slĂ©ndro tuning of Java, is a wonderful, unusual, beautiful kind of subtle and complex music totally outside anything we have in the Western tradition.  I've heard Gamelans a couple of times played by Indonesian musicians, and the experience is breathtaking.  You realize that, for all the long intellectual and artistic traditions of Western concert music, you are in the presence of something built on the same laws of acoustics, but which does things so much differently than any music you thought possible.

Chip Ahoy said...

I like the subtle use of horn, reed, and string sections.

Seven Machos said...

What a horrific piece of architecture. Those lightless, beauty-defying, humanity-opposing monstrosities exist at universities across the country and all should be torn down.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Oh the Humanities!

Theo Boehm said...

I call architecture frozen music.
—Goethe

My wife, who has had dealings with faculty with offices in that building, says it's at least as ugly as it looks in the video. Sort of Stalin meets M.C. Escher.

As you can tell from my last comment, I can't nominate the Gamelan music as a candidate to freeze for this place. In reality, if not this recording, Gamelan music is magic.

So, what music would you choose to freeze? Is there anything you know that's just right for this building?

JazzBass said...

ah, a sly reference to the pete townshend line, mayhaps?

the kids are alright, i hear.

michael farris said...

I was once at a gamelan concert (European student version, but some of the students had studied in Java) with an non-Javanese colleague from Indonesia.

At one point, he leaned over and whispered (free translation):
"I like this music, but I can only listen to so much of it before it starts to make me crazy".

Which by some strange coincidence was _exactly_ what I was thinking. It's beautiful in its own other-worldly way but I have to limit how often I listen to it.

John Burgess said...

I'll second Mr. Farris' take. I lived in Thailand--which has its own gamelan tradition--for three years. The 'plinky-plink' finally got to me. Thirty seconds is about my tolerance level now. About the only thing worse is Chinese opera.

It was a rare juxtaposition, though, to match the music with the architectural aesthetic of the Eastern Bloc! It doesn't bear repetition, however.

nick danger said...

Both the humanities building and the journalism building next door are masterpieces of brutalism, an architectural movement seemingly designed to flummox the mind and crush the soul.

What baffles me is why Helen C. White escapes the same harsh judgments. Is it just because it has nicer views? I used to wonder why they converted a parking garage into a library until I found out it was only meant to look that way. Converting it from a library to a parking garage, at least, would provide some much-needed parking space.

Conserve Liberty said...

Midwestern rube wearing corn as ear hair doesn't get it.

Imagine the UW Humanities building, but with all the mechanical bits running outside the concrete, painted in primary colors, and you have the Washington University - St. Louis Law School. Designed by Wash U Architecture students n the 60's to thumb its nose at the granite and limestone campus.

I looked at it out my bedroom window for 20 years.

Mercifully it was replaced - but the new Art Building is a similar blot.