Monday, January 31, 2011

Attention to the Details

As Columbo used to say, "Oh -- just one more thing ..."

I just began writing articles for Suite101.com with a review of the opening night concert for the new home of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach. But one small thing I omitted is a wonderful example of the fantastic attention to detail that is evident in all aspects of this project.

You know that chime that tells people to put down their drinks in the lobby and get to their seats? The one that goes "bong ... bong ... bong ..." or maybe "bing bong ... bing bong ... ?"

Well that's not good enough for the New World Center. I was delighted to hear the chimes play an entire little tune. And even more delighted when I recognized it as one of the oldest known pieces of Western music: the "Seikilos epitaph" that was discovered engraved on a tombstone in Turkey, and which dates from over 2,000 years ago.

(If you're wondering how I happened to recognize such an old song, it's because I discovered it while researching the article I wrote about the discovery of some bone flutes from the Ice Age -- perhaps the oldest musical instruments ever found.)

So when you go to the New World Center, even in the act of being ushered to your seat you are being reminded of the wonderfully long and rich history that has delivered us to this new golden age. Here are the lyrics [translated] so you can sing along:

While you live, shine,
don't suffer anything at all;
life exists only a short while,
and time demands its toll.
So in other words, eat, drink and be merry!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

"Art" In Very Public Places

Recently I posted this photo to my facebook pages as an example of what can happen when committees respond to a government mandate to put "art" in public places. Pretty awful, huh?

This glorified hitching post stands about four feet tall at the corner of a medical arts (no pun intended) building in South Miami. Even as a phallic symbol it's pretty wimpy and disgusting. A dish of water at the base seems to allude to it being a fountain, but it more closely resembles some kind of monumental pet feeding station.

You only have to go a few blocks further east to find another such example. When this twenty-foot tall construction was first unveiled -- or perhaps a better word is "installed" -- it was instantly dubbed "The Giant French Fries," or, even better, "MacDonald's After The Blast."

We're told that its real name is "Patience," though there is no explanation of why. Oddly enough the name acquired additional meaning when the, um, sculpture was lost and we had to wait a long time to get it back.

How could we lose something so large, you ask? Simple. Just remove it temporarily (hold that thought) while the ground it was on got razed in preparation for building a low-income housing project. Unfortunately, the contractor involved pocketed most of the money he was supposed to get while going no further than scraping the dirt and putting a chain link fence around it. By the time he'd been prosecuted, the whole idea of putting low-income housing on the site had been abandoned. (Obviously it was way too expensive!)

The earth turned and revolved about the sun, the years passed, and those crumpled Golden Arches became no more than a fond memory. Are you still holding that thought? Then where would YOU put a ton of steel "temporarily?" Give up? So did everyone else who worked for the county.

One day an inspector doing an inventory of the county's art collection discovered the piece had been lost. Then it was miraculously found in a scrap yard, identified as "rusting pieces of metal." To make up for this embarrassment the county took down the fence around the weed-grown construction site, covered it with grass, and placed the prodigal artwork, now decked out with a new coat of yellow paint, on a concrete and gravel pad. This part cost us only $40,000 -- surely a bargain.

Oh, and the place is now called a park. "Patience Park," of course.

Renaissance Florence had the Medici and Leonardo, but we've got Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places and the Professional Advisory Committee to insure that 1.5% of the construction cost of our public buildings goes to acquire, well ... art. Enjoy!