Friday, July 01, 2005

Stimmung in the Gherkin

I've always felt a strong link between musical performances and the space they take place in. But my conditioning has meant I've always been biased towards 'historical' performance spaces such as Norwich Cathedral and the beautiful town church of St Peter Mancroft.

This year's City of London Festival, which has just started, takes an innovative perspective on music and performance space by linking 20th century music with contemporary architecture. The opening concert was a real show stopper. Officially known as the Swiss Re building after its tenants, but known to everyone in London as the Gherkin because of its unique shape, Sir Norman Foster's extraordinary curved glass skyscraper was opened in 2004. The Festival opener was a performance by contemporary music veterans Singcircle of Stockhausen's Stimmung on the top floor of the Gherkin complete with 360 degree panoramic views of a stunning sunset.

Among the other 20th century combinations of music and architecture at the Festival is a concert by the wonderful pianist Joanna MacGregor in Richard Roger's almost equally stunning Lloyds Building including works by Cage, Feldman, and Nancarrow. Great to see some really creative festival programming, and great to see 20th century architecture and music getting the attention it deserves. However the stipulation on the painfully slow to load Flash-heavy Festival web site of "dress code smart" for a performance by the extrovert McGregor (who sported braided hair the last time I saw her perform - see photo above) of works by the American avant-garde does seem somewhat anachronistic. Or is that "dress code smart" another intrusion by a sponsor?

Any reader suggestions for appropriate combinations of musical works, venue and dress code?

My nominations are a concert performance of Gotterdammerung (dress code hard hats) at 1400 Smith St, in downtown Houston - the old Enron headquarters (by one of those strange On An Overgrown Path coincidences the Enron HQ was oval shaped - like the Gherkin). For my minimalist readers I suggest John Cage's 4' 33" at the Trappist Abbaye Notre Dame de Bon Secours in Blauvac with dress code hair shirts.

If you enjoyed this post take the overgrown path to Hildegard comes to Norwich via IRCAM and Darmstadt
invisible hit counter

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love the gherkin--I just saw that building's silhouette yesterday while watching some Wimbledon footage on US TV with vague interest, and thought "What on earth...?"