This Thursday, at Santa Monica's Moss Theater, four musicians will put on the first ever performance of "Frank's House," a musical piece by composer Andrew Norman about Frank Gehry's Santa Monica house. If architecture really is frozen music, than what, oh what, will the Gehry Residence sound like, as room-temperature music? A very long piece in the LA Times about its composition provides us with some clues. Or maybe more questions?
Norman, who was given what Gehry apparently calls "the full Monty" tour of the Gehry Residence, says "it has a quality which is almost sort of punk, iconoclastic and in-your-face. And when you get inside the house, it's incredibly luminous and spacious and whimsical and really lovely." So Frank Gehry's house might sound sort of punk, or incredibly luminous, or maybe both.
The home started out as a "nondescript early 20th century pink wooden house" until Gehry added all kinds of glassy and metallic postmodernity to the outside, which neighbors and early reviewers hated. Casey C.M. Mathewson, author of Frank Gehry, Selected Works, 1969 to Today, once described it as Gehry's "personal answer to Los Angeles' chaotic culture." If you listen close, will you be able to hear the reactive chain-link fence sticking out of the upstairs deck?
You'll be able to hear the materials, at least:
The pianists, Jeffrey Kahane, the chamber orchestra's music director, and Los Angeles Philharmonic member Joanne Pearce Martin are invited to play their instruments' wood frames instead of the ivory keys at certain points should the spirit move them. They'll also drag mechanical pencils across parts of the pianos' innards; Norman says he's grown fond of how the thin little pieces of lead inside mechanical pencils rattle around, adding extra texture to the zings and taps and scratches the pencil points make on chain-link fencing and other Gehry-inspired materials. Metal can openers also will come into play.
Like Gehry in 1978, Norman says, his approach has been "many trips to Home Depot and begin experimenting." Evidence of his R&D phase leaned against a wall by the kitchen—plywood planking, a section of chain-link and a 6-foot-high sheet of corrugated metal. A tube of slinky metal ducting joined the clutter obliterating a nearby table, where Norman's viola rested uncomfortably close to the edge.
At one point, the score contains an instruction to the percussionist to "take a piece of newspaper and crumple it (as if you are Frank Gehry imagining a new building)." So there will be a paper-crumpling sound.
Definitely more questions.
UPDATE: You can hear the sultry sounds of plywood and metal on 89.3 KPCC.