The Architecture of Sound: Xenakis’ “Metastaseis”

Music, like architecture, is time and space. -Le Corbusier On Saturday, I attended the opening of Virginia Commonwealth University’s new Institute for Contemporary Art (pictured above). Situated at one of Richmond’s most prominent intersections, the collection of galleries will host “an ever-changing slate of exhibitions, performances, films, and special programs that translate our world into every medium.” The sculptural design by American architect Steven Holl has become an instant landmark. At night, …

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Hamburg’s New Elbphilharmonie: “Here Time Becomes Space”

Here time becomes space. This enigmatic line from Wagner’s Parsifal suggests the transcendent nature of the 1882 work, which dramatizes a twelfth-century knight’s quest for the Holy Grail. Parsifal goes beyond opera, transporting us into a mystical new realm. Foremost, it’s an experience. Appropriately, this line became the theme for last week’s inaugural concerts of Hamburg’s spectacular, new Elbphilharmonie- the long-anticipated home of the NDR Sinfonieorchester (North German Radio Symphony Orchestra), now renamed the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. In …

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Remembering the Twins, Fifteen Years Later

Sunday marks the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. If you’re old enough to remember that day and the numbing weeks which followed, the details of your life at that time, both consequential and trivial, are probably seared into your memory. For me, the horrific events of 9/11 followed on the heels of my successful audition for the Richmond Symphony. On that warm, clear Tuesday morning, I had just …

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Zaha Hadid’s Frozen Music

Zaha Hadid, the visionary and sometimes controversial Iraqi-born British architect, passed away suddenly on Thursday. She was 65. Her uncompromising, sculptural designs unequivocally embraced the ethos of “architecture as art” in a way reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright. Fellow architect Rem Koolhaas called her “a planet in her own inimitable orbit.” There’s a geological quality to Hadid’s Wanjing Soho towers in Beijing, completed in 2014. They rise on the landscape like three giant pebbles. Horizontal …

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Kleinhans Music Hall Turns 75

  Today marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, New York. Home of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Kleinhans is considered one of the world’s most acoustically perfect concert halls. It’s also one of Buffalo’s most significant architectural landmarks. Located in a leafy residential neighborhood just north of the city’s downtown, it anchors majestic Symphony Circle, part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s extensive parkway system which runs throughout …

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Trinity Church, Boston: Architecture and Sound

  Yesterday marked the anniversary of the birth of noted nineteenth century American architect Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886). Richardson’s memorable and influential designs include the turreted Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh, Albany’s City Hall and New York State Capital, Buffalo’s New York State Asylum, and Chicago’s mighty Marshall Field Wholesale Store (now demolished), as well as a host of libraries and houses in smaller towns. Richardson’s buildings, load-bearing and often featuring extensive stone and …

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Thomas Jefferson: Architect, Musician

Hierarchy is a powerful concept in architecture. Some buildings, such as Frank Gehry’s iconic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, or the Sydney Opera House, rising out of the harbor with its bright “sails,” grab our attention and dominate the landscape. The majestic, muscular Art Deco City Hall in Buffalo, New York is another, if less obvious, example. It nobly anchors the city’s main public square, telling us, “this place is important.” The building …

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