View Full Version : Architecture student seeks advice

01-27-2001, 07:15 PM
As part of an architecture degree course I have been told to design an art gallery. One of the items to be 'displayed' is Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata"! I wonder if anybody has any bright ideas of how they think this piece of music could best be displayed in an art gallery - strange scenario I know!!!

01-27-2001, 09:52 PM
This is a promising challenge! I can understand the difficulty facing your project because I'm in landscape architecture and such concepts have been broached before. I am reminded of the Yo-Yo Ma/Julie Messervy Music Garden project that was completed on the Toronto waterfront a year and a half ago. I'm not sure if you've heard of it, but it was a six-part gardenscape designed to "demonstrate" the Bach cello suites (or rather, each mov't of one of the six). It's a beautiful garden and a noble project, and it's based on the evoked feelings of the music of Bach.

The six parts of the garden are representative of the moods of the six movements. A free-flowing design represents the Gavotte, an ornate, whimsical part denotes the Allemande... and it essentially provides a musical painting; a painterly interpretation. Ma was very fond of the end result and I for one am very happy it ended up in Toronto! It was originally supposed to go in Boston (perhaps city council rejected it while fretting over their Big Dig).

These things are not easy to do. To set architecture to music is to understand the tone and sense of the music. There is no other way to conjoin these two opposite arts. Much in the way that Ma and garden designer Messervy conjoined the spirit of Bach and the beauty of a designed garden, you must get the feel for Ludwig's Moonlight. You must understand the tone of the sonata.

First, it must be known that Ludwig's Moonlight is a fantasy sonata, and when played properly, sounds precisely like a scored improvisation. It is flowing, soaring, darting about, and it is doing so in a sort of dampened mood, a sort of depressed tone. The sonata's first movement is not exactly happy. It is slightly sombre. To me, it evokes a sort of haunting, even. A darkness seems to cloak it.

Your architecture must capture that, Sean. Your architecture must not be static and adroit. It must evoke a sense of lithe and motion. Can you design that? Can you design this gallery piece so that it will evoke a sense of flight? I forget who said the sonata resembled a moonlit night (not Berlioz, though; he said it evoked a sunrise or something), but whoever did was listening to the 1st mov't played like it was a dirge, almost. Slow, trancelike... this sonata was not meant to be played like that. The score itself says "like a fantasy"! Your design must emulate that.

I know this can be hard. It is easier, I think, to design the land in this manner than it is to design a building or structure because while the landscape can (but shouldn't) be made to serve no other purpose than "window dressing", architecture must serve a practical purpose. A whimsical structure becomes a large sculpure if no one can use it, right?

I hope this helps you think out something. I will personally help you out more should you want it. I think you would do well to listen to a quickened version of the piece. Murray Perahia does a good job, but the best version I've yet heard is one a Beethoven symphonies disc conducted by Ben Zander on the Telarc label. On the second disc, Z. talks about the metronome and its use with Beethoven. An example he gives is the Moonlight first mov't played as Z. believed it should be. It will open your eyes, believe me.

So there you have it. Promise you'll keep us updated on your progress. As a l. architecture student with a fine interest in architecture, I am now fascinated by how your project will turn out. If I can be of more help, let me know.

01-27-2001, 10:55 PM
Originally posted by sean:
As part of an architecture degree course I have been told to design an art gallery. One of the items to be 'displayed' is Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata"! I wonder if anybody has any bright ideas of how they think this piece of music could best be displayed in an art gallery - strange scenario I know!!!


I think you got off on the wrong floor for this! However, multi-talented chap that I am, I can offer you the benefit of my wisdom, & suggest a sure-fire winner of an idea:

You will need a largish, spherical lump of rock (try Bob the Builder). This will be our Moon. Next, obtain an early 19thC fortepiano, & remove all the keys (the reason for this will be explained shortly). Now, place our Moon & fp, with the lid OPEN (very important detail), side by side as your gallery`s no.1 exhibit.

Like all great art, this ingenious attraction will baffle, nee intrigue your visitors (& there will be many), & they will pretend to comprehend this vision before them (that`s what these people do, pretend), but, in the end, they will simply HAVE to ask of you (meekly): "er...excuse me, but I wonder if you could confirm how this represents Beethoven`s Moonlight Sonata?" You can then bowl them over by explaining that the real Moon emits no natural light; thus there is no such thing as Moonlight. Ergo, your dead rock makes for a perfect Moon. By now, your patrons will be putty in your hands!

But what of the keyless piano, I hear you scream? Okay, this is the really clever bit; smugly explain it thus: the sonata in question was only given the epithet "Moonlight" after Beethoven had died (true), & that the missing keys represent both his deafness in life, and his soul leaving his body - in this case, the body of the piano - as he left this world to join the immortals, in Heaven.

Sean, by now your crowds will be in tears (gosh, I`m welling up myself!). And so it will come to pass that you will have unveiled the eighth wonder of the world. Or they`ll ask for their money back. But definitely one or the other. HEY! I`m not asking for a commission here!!

Hmmm............not a terrible interpretation of the Moonlight Sonata, even if I do say so myself http://www.gyrix.com/~cgraye/ubb/wink.gif

01-27-2001, 11:11 PM
Just wanted to add that what I just posted was all typed up before Serge`s more sensible suggestions were posted, & I didn`t mean to undermine his sincerity. I still like my idea, though!!

01-29-2001, 02:40 PM
Thanks for the very useful, thought provoking advice Serge. As for PDG, keep taking the medicine, mate!
Being a poor student, I've bought a modestly priced CD of LVB's piano sonatas - played by Radu Lupu. Certainly better than the midi file!!
Cheers again
Architecture page at <a href="http://www.kisbee.co.uk/kisarch.htm>www.kisbee.co.uk/kisarch.htm</a>