Friday, October 7, 2011

Great Phone Call!

I had a wonderful conversation with Ann Hamilton yesterday. Ann is the acclaimed artist creator of the Tower, the 80-foot-high, 16-foot-diameter venue with double helix staircases in which Sympho will perform next June in California. The concert is entitled, appropriately enough, TOWER. I'll share some of the tantalizing details:

• She met Steve Oliver, the man who eventually commissioned the Tower, through a friend who knew that 1) Ann needed some live sheep for a current project, and 2) Steve happened to be raising sheep.

• The double helix staircase is modeled on a specific well in Orvieto, Italy - sheep descend to the water via one staircase, and they ascend via the other.

• OK, enough about sheep! More intriguingly, the Tower is designed to connect the sky and the ground, and Ann conceptualized it as a throat. (Funnily enough, one of the first images that came to mind upon entering the Tower was the vibrating column of air inside the throat or in a woodwind instrument.)

• It's a very INTERIOR space, even though it's outside. You won't get this until you're standing inside, but it's very true.

• Rhythmically, the staircase looks very regular, but it's not. The stairs get narrower and narrower as they ascend - this compression in ascension and relaxation in descent was integral to Hamilton's design.

• The primary experience was intended to be about movement. The stairs have a nice "gait" to them, though I wouldn't recommend walking them for extended periods of time, unless you're going for a great workout!

• You can look very intimately at the person opposite you on the other staircase, but you can't reach them.

• Finally, given its location in an earthquake zone, there is at least as much built UNDER the ground as there is above ground. During the construction, the team brought in workers from a bridge-building company with airtanks to go underground and make sure the concrete pillars penetrated into bedrock.

For more pictures of this singular venue just click here. The Sympho collaborative team is off to experiment in the Tower for a week, starting on October 17. Can. Not. Wait.