Dancing about an Architecture Exhibition

August 7, 2009

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Someone—Elvis Costello? Frank Zappa? it’s up for dispute—once said “talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” It’s meant to sound nonsensical, I guess, but then again Goethe famously said “architecture is frozen music.” So I’ve always had the impression that dancing about architecture was a quite reasonable thing to do. Anyone who’s heard Talking Heads’ “Don’t Worry about the Government” would surely agree!

As further proof of this theory, I’ve devised another playlist on the occasion of a new exhibition—“From the Spoon to the City”: Designs by Architects from LACMA’s Collection. The exhibition, which opened yesterday, highlights furniture and other objects designed by architects. Its title comes from another quote, this time by Ernesto Rogers, who claimed that architects want to design everything “from the spoon to the city.” As always, you can download this mix from iTunes.

  • The Decemberists: Here I Dreamt I was an Architect
  • Spoon: All the Pretty Girls Go to the City
  • Beirut: Forks and Knives (La Fête)
  • American Analog Set: Blue Chaise
  • Bedhead: Bedside Table
  • Death Cab for Cutie: Your New Twin Sized Bed
  • Loretta Lynn: This Old House
  • Ben Lee: No Right Angles
  • Cowboy Junkies: Working On a Building
  • Unit 4+2: Concrete and Clay
  • Talking Heads: Don't Worry About the Government
  • Simon & Garfunkel: So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright

This is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to songs about architecture and design. Unfortunately I was limited by (a) what I had in my own collection and (b) what iTunes actually carries. I wanted to include Harry Nilsson’s “Good Old Desk” and John Hartford’s excellent “In Tall Buildings”; we also got fantastic suggestions from many of our followers on Twitter, who suggested (among others) Adult’s “Dispassionate Furniture,” Jonathan Richman’s “Government Center,” and basically the entire oeuvre of Einstürzende Neubaten (translated: Collapsing New Buildings). I do want to thank those of you who suggested the Death Cab for Cutie, Ben Lee, and Cowboy Junkies tunes.

As a final bonus, here’s the John Hartford song—I can’t resist.

Scott Tennent