Listening to Buildings
Anne Hilde Neset is a critic and curator based in Oslo, Norway. She is a regular host of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction programme, showcasing the most cutting edge, international new music. After working as an editor at The Wire music magazine in London, Neset is now the director of Norway’s nyMusikk, which presents a wide range of music and sound art across Europe. Above she has compiled a playlist around the theme of music and architecture which incorporates, among other sounds, folk song, vintage jazz, renaissance choral music, modern composition, electronic beats and the bioelectric sounds of fruit. (Pictured above: Philips Pavilion for the 1958 Brussels World Exposition – see Iannis Xenakis entry below).
Excerpts from Inside The Great Pyramid and Inside The Taj Mahal
Paul Horn was an American jazz flautist who worked with a number of musicians like Nat King Cole, and Tony Bennet. He was also a practitioner of transcendental meditation, making music we now think of as belonging to the ‘New Age’ genre. He made a series of albums inside different buildings of spiritual importance as well as other resonant spaces like Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley.
“A Jug Of This”
from English Drinking Songs
(Topic 1998, recorded 1961)
The Eels Foot Inn pub in Suffolk has folk music embedded in its walls. This might not be a musical piece about architecture, it is in fact a drinking song, but The Eels Foot Inn is a hugely important site on the English folk heritage map and it’s where musicologist A.L. Lloyd recorded songs that, and I quote Lloyd himself “tell a bit of a story, songs as sly as a tinker’s wink, as rough as a ploughman’s hand”.
Performed by California EAR Unit, UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus
(New Albion, composed 1971)
“Polyphony sucks,” the American composer Morton Feldman famously exclaimed. And when Feldman’s friend, abstract painter Mark Rothko committed suicide, he responded with his most personal work made for and recorded inside the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas.
Writer Alex Ross: “Listening to his music is like being in a room with the curtains drawn. You sense that with one quick gesture sunlight could fill the room, that life in all its richness could come flooding in”.
The composer Iannis Xenakis’s day job was in the architectural offices of the famous French modernist architect Le Corbusier – they worked together on the Philips Pavilion for the 1958 Brussels World Exposition (pictured above). The young Greek composer quickly learned that structural calculations could apply to sounds as well, and Metastaseis is structured around Le Corbusier's mathematical ideas. Metastaseis was premiered at the 1955 Donaueschingen festival.
Stephen Vitiello and Taylor Deupree
“From The Fish House”
(12K, recorded 2014)
The Fish House is a piece by sound artists Stephen Vitiello and Taylor Deupree, a piece created in – and for – a beautiful house on stilts on the Captiva Island in southwest Florida where the late American artist Robert Rauschenberg lived and worked for most of his life. This house is now a foundation offering artist residencies, which this work comes out of.
Autechre has always struck me as architectural music, it’s all angular beats, thick walls of noise, beats ricocheting and echoing around. This track might not be about buildings or such, but it surely is music to evoke architecture.
“Nuper Rosarum Flores”
from Alexander Blachly's Pomerium
The building of Brunelleschi's Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (or the Florence Dome) was one of the most impressive projects of the Renaissance and the first 'octagonal' dome in history to be built without a temporary wooden supporting frame. During the consecration service in 1436, Guillaume Dufay's motet "Nuper Rosarum Flores" was performed. The structure of this motet was strongly influenced by the structure of the dome.
from Museum Of Fruit
(Caipirinia Records, recorded 1999)
Influential writer and musician David Toop’s album Museum Of Fruit is a record made for the incredible curved exoskeleton structure of Yamanashi’s Museum Of Fruit located west of Tokyo, a group of three buildings near Mount Fuji that resemble large globular greenhouses. Toop’s recording features, amongst other things, bioelectric recordings of fruit made by innovative sound artist Michael Prime.