Saturday evening I went to a concert presented by PBS’s “Artist’s Den” Series. The musician, Ed Sheeran, is a young English singer song writer. I went because it was held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture where I am a member and because I thought my teenage daughter would enjoy it. She could not have enjoyed it more than I did. His voice is lovely, his guitar playing amazing. He sings what I would describe as personal ballads, the lyrics cover music making, loneliness, loss of a baby and the despair resulting from drug use rather You’re so pretty, I love you, you don’t love me.
What really excited me though was the way he made the music. On the stage was a man, an acoustic guitar with a pick up and two microphones. He explained to us what he was doing as he worked. At the start of every song he would use one microphone to record a guitar track, a rhythm track by striking the body of the guitar, and a background vocal track. These became the structure of the song. They played in loops, he must have controlled them with unseen foot pedals. Then Sheeran would start singing and playing the guitar, the looped tracks would come and go to produce guitar duets and vocal duets. They did not seem like repetition, it was more like a backbone. I was captivated by the music and by his use of technology to compose.
Sunday morning I went to the Museum of Modern Art to see an exhibition of the 19th century French architect Henri Labrouste. Labrouste designed two of the most beautiful libraries in Paris, the Biblioteque Nationale and the Biblioteque Sainte-Genvieve. This fabulous exhibit shows photographs, models and drawings that describe these transcendent spaces. For my teenage daughter there was even a 3D film clip from Hugo. It feels like the spaces Labrouste designed are built with light rather than solid matter.
Architecture Enhanced by Technology
In the nineteenth century technological developments allowed spaces to be spanned by materials that required less mass than stone or wood. The ceiling in the Biblioteque Sante-Genvieve looks like it floats over the reading room like the raised wings of a flock of birds. Then I saw a drawing of the detailed cast iron base of one of the columns; this column repeats down the length of the space. He had used building technologies new-found ability to repeatedly cast an element to set up the structure for the space. The arched lacy beams that support the vaulted ceiling are another repeating element.
Architecture AND Music Enhanced by Technology
I was immediately reminded of Ed Sheeran’s music making the night before. Two very different creations shaped by the artful use of technology.