Concerts and the City – Urban storytelling with Daniel Libeskind
There is a deeply affecting quality about star architect Daniel Libeskind’s simple, elegant elucidations, which possesses an air of truth that never fails to inspire. Perhaps most essentially, they offer a glimpse into the deeply enthusiastic and positive worldview so inherent in all of his endeavors. “You have to bring hope,” Libeskind tells Listen. “without a positive sense of the future, you can’t build architecture, because you are laying foundations.”
This article was published in “Listen – life with music and culture” April, 2016.
All architectural photos and sketches, courtesy Studio Libeskind.
photo: Ground Zero in New York City.
This sense of hope occurs in all of his major architectural work. In Berlin, for instance, stands the Jewish Museum – the award-winning design of which was accepted in 1989 – and brought Libeskind world fame. its jarring curves, bold shapes, and unexpected voids gave form and shapes to the violent and complicated history of Germans and Jews further explored in the collection.
photo: one of the voids of the Jewish Museum Berlin.
But Libeskind’s design also included cracks of light which penetrate that intimidating space, providing – literally – a glimmer of hope. the same idea occurs in his master plan for New York City’s Ground Zero, where hope and commemoration manifest themselves as wedge of light.
In a recent BBC radio interview, Libeskind – once an aspiring accordion player – revealed his diverse musical taste in a list of works that included selections from Mozart’s Requiem; Beethoven’s String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op.133; ancient Greek music; Giacinto Scelsi’s Pfhat; and Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz. This colorful array is indicative of both Libeskind’s own broad palette, and of the love for music that inspires and impacts his sense of design: “Even though I have given up performing music” – Libeskind played classical music, which he transcribed for accordion – “I never gave up music at all. I am always listening to the sound of a space and to its vibrations.”
Indeed, Libeskind sees much resonance between the fields of music and architecture. “How we listen to music, the physical, visceral experience…can never be experienced in the same way [by two people], and while perhaps nothing brings people together like music, its experience is linked to each individual human soul…the same goes for architecture.”This belief has prompted him to undertake many cross-disciplinary projects, including a series of drawings published by the Architectural Association School of Architecture. The loose-leaf sketches, collected in a record box, were titled Chamber Works, and Libeskind calls them “musical scores of performances of a civic space.”
As CNN Style’s first guest editor, Libeskind also recently commissioned and curated a series of features which link music and architecture through the common thread of their emotional impact and communicative capacities. “The audience becomes a vital component of the performance. it is not passively sitting down and removed from the show,” he says. In May 2016, Libeskind will further explore these issues in a twenty-four hour extravaganza of site- specific concerts called One Day in Life.
Set in Frankfurt at the invitation of the city’s Alte Oper, One Day in Life opens up Germany’s commercial and cultural hub with an odyssey through different locations and musical eras. each site and program identified by one of eighteen basic themes of human experience. One such performance, hosted in the massive Commerzbank-Arena, will feature concert violinist Caroline Widmann and DJ Spooky as a contribution to the theme of “will.” The program notes describe the event as “…a confrontation of two musical worlds for the benefit of a shared retaliation. In a location where, at other times, sporting events mesmerize large numbers of people,music will exert its evocative power by presenting virtuosic violin pieces or contemporary electronic sounds – music whose strong will makes it irresistible to the audience.”
At the German National Library, Star pianist and Steinway Artist Pierre-Laurent Aimard will participate in a performance of Schubert’s Sonata No.18 in G Major, D.894 – a contribution to the theme of “translation,” letting the music speak for itself.
Many locations used for the concerts are spaces most people would not even have known existed, while others have never seen performances of the kind One Day in Life presents. Accordingly, musical offerings will change with the scenery, ranging from soloists and small ensembles to a full symphony orchestra.
In a recent press conference in Frankfurt, Libeskind said: “My project is to put music where it’s never been played in that way. The idea is to open up the city, and how people listen to music.”
Imperial War Museum in Manchester, United Kingdom
Libeskind explained to Listen some of the essential factors at play in his vision: “Music is constantly in our lives; it reveals the rhythm of our lives, we are just not always…aware of it. One Day in Life brings a special unity to the dialogue between the audience, the place, and the music, and reveals new connections. Music becomes recognizable as the force of life it is – think of its already biblical power, bringing down the walls of Jericho – and of course as a source of bringing pleasure into one’s life. People will suddenly realize that they can enjoy being in a hospital or at the bunker while listening to a performance of a work by Schoenberg, or by Nono. The music changes how we experience the place and the place changes how we listen to music.”
One Day in Life will occur May 21-22 in Frankfurt am Main
Daniel Libeskind plans to attend the extraordinary event.
Daniel Libeskind plans to attend the extraordinary event.
Daniel Libeskind, photo: Wonge Bergmann, Alte Oper Frankfurt am Main.