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December 22, 2010

Book Notes - Diana Balmori ("A Landscape Manifesto")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Diana Balmori is one of the world's leading and most innovative landscape architects in the field of urban design, and her book A Landscape Manifesto collects her principles and theories in one of the year's most important books. Balmori clearly explains her 25 principles that tie together ecology and aesthetics in a book that truly can change the world.

In her own words, here is Diana Balmori's Book Notes music playlist for her book, A Landscape Manifesto:

Five Songs for Five Projects

It's not that I design a landscape with the music playing. No it's rather a way of entering into a region, a place, a culture. I always collect music from places I am working in. For me it is the best port of entry, I feel it reaches into the place in the best possible way for me to get close to it. While working on a project in Texas – for the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth – I listened to Tex-Mex, and to music used for dancing the Texan two-step in Austin in a bar with a covered wood dancing area outdoors. And If i was to use a piece that I things sums up that sound and rhythm it would be a song by The Geezinlaws, “C.H.E.A.T.I.N.” from a CD given to me by Sammy and I am ashamed to say I don't remember who or when.

St Louis was a long excursion into big band jazz which was not my favorite kind of jazz, but in working on a project for the St Louis waterfront I found out about a company of boats that did sunset tours up and down the Mississippi in the 20's through the 40's and hired musicians coming up from New Orleans for these tours in which dinner was served and there was dancing late in the evening. Many famous musicians came this way. And the German immigrant brothers who started this boat company also trained the musicians to read music. The description of the dancing boats was vivid and I found many people In St Louis who remembered them with relish so that the music of the big bands sounded differently to me when I thought of it as the music for dancing at night on the wood deck of a boat plying the great Mississippi. So danceable a music as Benny Goodman's "Stomping at the Savoy" converted me to the music of the big bands. How could I have been so narrow minded, I thought, after this St Louis conversion.

Much harder still is to try to work in another culture than the one you belong to. But there is where music is really fundamental; it is the real ambassador to another world and by far the best form of entry. Work in Mumbai India, was accompanied by listening to ragas, tabla, sitar, flute, dervish music. Here the distance to travel was much greater. And the music really did not seem easy until I saw live performances and above all when I saw it accompanied by dance. As if It couldn't reach me until I physically saw its rhythms in dancing, or perhaps in India dancing is much more important to the music. I still feel it is best heard when seeing it accompanied by a dancing performance.

I think "Vandanas Trayee" in Ravi Shankar's Chants of India, is one piece which always brings back the feeling of space in one Jain Indian temple which has the spatial complexity of the sound of this chant.

Then there is Memphis. Now Memphis, that's a music place. And I've been working on a public place for music right on the Mississippi and it is at the end of that famous street which is considered the place of birth of the blues, Beale Street. Memphis wanted a place where music could be heard at night where people could gather by the river and the design has different platforms at different heights from the river. The river will cover some platforms at high water times but for a music that carries the Mississippi so deep in its entrails it seems only fitting. What a wealth of music blues are and so many kinds of blues from Muddy Waters to Ellie Baker to BB King. (B.B. still has a bar on Beale Street) to the new blues. To choose one is particularly difficult, but Garfield Akers, “Dough Roller Blues" (1939) is the one.

That's not all for Memphis. The King was only 15 miles away in Tupelo, and how can one leave him out. The tourists coming up or down the river moor at Memphis to go and listen to blues in the evening and then go on to Elvis's shrine, Graceland, the next day. So the Memphis project served up weekends filled also with Elvis. “All Shook Up" is a really good one.

Diana Balmori and A Landscape Manifesto links:

the author's Wikipedia entry
the book's blog


Plan and Section interview with the author
Stacked Up profile of the author
WNYC Culture profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

Online "Best Books of 2010" lists

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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