Tuesday, December 30, 2008
A "culture" insert in the current issue of the German weekly Der Spiegel asks a number of artists to design their dream house. Graphic artists, architects, writers, game designers, a comic book artist are asked, but not a single musician. The composition and performance of music is often critically dependant upon the environment in which it is made, played and heard so musicians often have rather specific ideas about the kind of space and place in which they'd like to live and work. For myself, I've been sketching dream houses on the backs of envelopes and margins of otherwise very important documents since I was a kid and I don't think that that's a particularly unusually preoccupation. But musicians seldom have the material circumstances to realize their particular architectural dreams, and when, usually with great compromises. Wagner was, of course the great rule-breaking exception, with an impressive but comfortable residence and an opera house built for specifically for his work. The great experimental halls in the Brussels (Varese and Xenakis) and Osaka (Stockhausen) World Exhibitions were fantastic but temporary. Stockhausen was fortunate to have a studio and residence built, albeit on a smaller scale than orginally intended. An inheritance from Charles Ives allowed Lou Harrison to add a large room — named The Ives Room, of course; well-suited for gamelan rehearsals and complete with pit for puppeteers — to his house in Aptos, but he continued to compose in the isolation of a little trailer. La Monte Young, at times generously supported by patrons, has never been supported to the extent that one of his dream houses could be built new from the ground up, and has had to house his sound and light dreams inside existing commercial and residential spaces. There are countless popular musicians who are able to afford custom-designed home and studio complexes and, while I suspect that many were more inventive and productive in less luxurious circumstances, that's an area well out of my expertise. I'm lucky to have a small basement studio that's nearly soundproof to the outside world, but it would be nice to have a better rehearsal and concert space above ground, for semi-private music-making, all adjacent to space for dining. I'd also like a view to some mountains and a babbling brook, or better yet, my own private waterfall, nearby... you can dream, can't you? What would your dream house look, and sound, like?