Friends in High Places
Music That's Aware of Its Surroundings
Monday, July 11, 2011
My friends, it’s been so long! I’ve missed you all! I’ve been mostly in London and Reykjavik since we last talked, the former city to see Nico Muhly’s opera Two Boys (so good) and the latter to record viola things and schvitz. Along the way I played some great little shows, and one of the highlights of my trip was a recital with organist Jamie McVinnie and Nico Muhly at Westminster Abbey.
Now, it’s sort of hard to communicate exactly how this went down in physical space, but you can see me perched atop the organ loft in the photo at left. The Abbey is cruciform and the nave is insanely tall and the organ loft where I am at is sort of midway down. Here, I’ll draw you a picture:
So right, there are several challenges playing in a space like this, but most notably: how does one balance a viola (playing from one specific locale, at a relatively low volume) with an organ (which comes from really every direction at once and can completely fill the 320,000 cubic feet of the place?). The answer, actually, is just play loud and long and slow, but it can take some trial and error to get there.
All of this has me thinking about music’s interaction with space. Some music feels quite at home in one location and completely out-of-place in another. There’s music that’s been written for a specific place, music for specific events, music meant for headphones and music meant for car stereos.
This week, I’ll celebrate my first summer week back at the radio with music that’s aware of its surroundings. Can you think of any locale-evoking or site-specific works? Chime in with your favorites in the comments section below and I'll do my best to share them on Friday's show!