|Vol. 24 Issue 2 Reviews
|Reviews > Recordings >
|Caipirinha Music Architettura Series, Vols. I-III.
Vol. 1 Savvas Ysatis & Taylor Deupree: Tower of Winds
Reviewed by Kim Cascone
"Architecture is frozen music." (Madame de Stael)
There seems to have always been an aesthetic connection between architecture and music/sound. Pythagoras claimed he could "hear" structured space and proportion, medieval court musicians filled open space with live music, and Gregorian singers likewise filled reverberant cathedral spaces with their chanting voices. Elevator music keeps people relaxed in a confined space and, currently, we are sonifying architectural constructs in cyberspace. It is apparent that throughout history humans have spent a great deal of energy mapping sound onto architectural spaces. Conversely, many examples exist of composers using number systems such as the golden rule and the Fibonacci series, both well-known for their applications in architecture. A good example of this type of data exchange is the work of transarchitect Marcos Novak (http://www.cda.ucla.edu/Pages/novak.html), who has built time-variant post-Euclidean virtual structures from audio data. The computer has liberated data from being confined to separate containers and we are now able to explore worlds of space and audio that had previously been thought unreachable.
Caipirihna Productions has created an interesting series of releases that focus on the more poetic relationship between music and architecture. Rather than being direct mathematical mappings of sound to space, the series describes a more fluid relationship where the music is inspired by the space it is intended to represent.
Tower of Winds, by Savvas Ysatis and Taylor Deupree, is the first release in the series, and is based on a sculptural tower designed by architect Toyo Ito. The structure is set in a roundabout near the Yokohama Train Station, Japan. The tower is not really a building per se, but a structure that "reacts" to its environment by illuminating itself via computer-controlled lighting. The computer "listens" to the ambient environment and interprets wind speed, direction, and time of day, using the information to control the lighting of over 1280 lamps, a dozen neon lights, and 30 floodlights set around its perimeter. The patterns that emerge from the interaction with its environment portray "small scale changes, the temporary minute, and the chance encounter as what defines the city." The architectural structure, therefore, doesn't perform the function of being an "inhabited space," but is an indicator of ambient noise and wind patterns. The structure mirrors small-scale activities of the environment such as traffic lights, vending machines, and illuminated advertisements which, in Mr Ito's aesthetic, defines the city more than its buildings do. The music on the Tower of Winds disc has a similar slow-moving, pattern-based language woven into its fabric. Intricate patterns float in and out over large sheets of ambient textures, mirroring the activity of the Tower's lights as dusk approaches in Yokohama. Small flickers and stuttering sounds jut out in angular forms that could be construed as the haphazard timing of human activity centered around a train stationdriving, bicycling, walking, buying, eating, talking, crossing the street, looking out of windows, hailing taxis, asking for directions, saying goodbye All this is punctuated by the patterns of light that are ingesting this activity and tossing it back out into the environment where people subliminally tie their actions to it. The music combines rhythms that could be found by walking or driving; it also reflects the time of day. Some of the eleven pieces on the CD reflect the world of the invisible: the squelchy patterns that, though hidden from view, aurally reflect the activity of the city.
The second release in the series is Waterloo Terminal by Tetsu Inoue, inspired by the Channel Tunnel Terminal at Waterloo Station in London. The "chunnel" terminal, designed by Nicolas Grimshaw and Partners, is described as "the first monument of a new railway age," and is stunning in its intricate play of light and reflective surfaces. The terminal is an addition to the original station and contrasts the older part by slithering through the urban decay like a silver snake making its escape toward the Channel. Mr. Tetsu's work on this disc performs a similar action of reflecting glints of light and slithering through the digital detritus in snake-like movements. Using over one thousand pictures of the terminal that were scanned into his computer, he extracted both form and texture from the photos (using the software Metasynth) and used them in the intricate design of his piece. Swatches of static, hum, and stuttering clips of unrecognizable music ebb and flow in the shiny sonic skin that plays tricks with shadow and light. These ruptured textures and stabs of static match the perfect fragmentation that the architecture proposes. This release charts similar territory as the stuttering, broken-tech work of Oval and Microstoria, but instills a quality of organic movement that takes the style further.
"Today, utopia can only be realised in fictional form." (Itsuko Hasegawa)
The third in this series is Museum of Fruit by David Toop, well-known for his oneric book chronicling the arc of ambient music, Ocean of Sound. This disc is based on the work of female architect, Itsuko Hasegawa, who designed a curious set of structures dedicated to fruit. "Located in Yamanashi, Japan, within sight of Mount Fuji, the Museum of Fruit is a cluster of three domesa tropical green house, an atrium event space, an educational workshop for teachingbuilt on a gentle slope." The photographs that accompany the CD are quite beautiful, evoking the presence of the buildings and the context in which they exist. They have a somewhat similar appearance to an environment found in an episode of Star Trek: alien, intelligent structures tossed down like seeds into serene natural surroundings. There is a feminine feeling to the structures, and likewise, Mr. Toop's music evokes a yin experience, where enveloping space is the predominant element. Open space, moody yet serene. The composer mixes the electronic sounds of theremin and bio-electric recordings with the wafting, airy sounds of flutes and steel guitar. Some of the textures conjure Miles Davis's more somber, spooky electronic work, with low drones weaving in and out of shadows, twittering wah-wah guitars, and slow-motion, gong-like percussion. Other textures are reminiscent of Iannis Xenakis's work (in particular, Smell of Human Life). All of the tracks on this fine recording induce a mesmeric state in the listener, an appropriate mental state for visiting an environment such as the Museum of Fruit. Mr. Toop is a master of deep atmospheric explorations, and that is evidenced here in each of the eight pieces.
The Caipirinha Architeturra series has been a pleasure to become acquainted with, since I have a fascination with architecture and it often becomes the inspiration for my own sound work. There are more releases planned for the series and I am waiting eagerly to hear more of the architecture that artists are inspired by. Very highly recommended.