Sunday, May 07, 2006

Young's and Zazeela's Dream House

One of my brilliant former students, Tai Little, suggested almost a month ago that I check out composer LaMonte Young's and visual artist Marian Zazeela's Dream House: Seven + Eight Years of Sound and Light, one of several versions of a pioneering famous sound and light environmental art installation, which opened for its thirteenth season at the Mela Foundation down in Tribeca last year. Since Tai suggested I knew it would be worth seeing, though it took me weeks to finally get downtown to check it out. After being introduced to the space by a friendly woman (was it Zazeela? I didn't think to ask before she disappeared) I was the only person in the rooms.

I recommend Dream House, especially if you have some time to spare, aren't too bothered by loud, repetitive music, don't need lots of visual flash and are in a contemplative mood, and want to experience one of New York's famous participatory sensory aesthetic artworks. As the site says:

Both artists are presenting works utilizing concepts of structural symmetry. Zazeela's mobile forms are arrayed in symmetrical patterns with lights placed in precisely symmetrical positions creating symmetrical colored shadows; the wall-mounted light sculpture and the neon are both symmetrical forms. Young's sound environment is composed of frequencies tuned to the harmonic series between 288 and 224, utilizing numbers with factors of only 9, or those primes or octave transpositions of smaller primes that fall within this range. The interval 288/256 reduces to a 9/8 interval as does the interval 252/224. Thirty-two frequencies satisfy the above definition, of which seventeen fall within the range of the upper, and fourteen fall within the range of the lower of these two symmetrical 9/8 intervals. Young has arranged these thirty-one frequencies in a unique constellation, symmetrical above and below the thirty-second frequency, the center harmonic 254 (the prime 127 x 2).

The technical aspects of the piece will probably appeal more to a composer or mathematician, while the experience of repetitive music and light over extended durations may draw out the psychologist and philosopher in a viewer. I also recommend taking someone with you to check it out, since I believe this will alter the dynamics of the waveforms; whenever I stood in one spot, the rhythmic pulsing turned into buzzing. I tried walking slowly, then running, then hopping around, punctuating my different paces with long pauses--at least as long as I could take the feedback-like buzzing--but I did wonder what it would be like to experience with others present. The photos below are from the exhibit, though I have to say they hardly capture my realtime ocular experience, since the camera's optics filter out the multilayered imagescape that the human eye is able to perceive. If I go back, maybe I'll try my first podcast...

The entry hallway

Inside one of Zazeela's environments, Imagic Light, Magenta Day (the mobiles are almost invisible)

Another view of Imagic Light, Magenta Day

Zazeela's neon Dream House Variation I

Zazeela's Ruine Window 1992 from her series, Still Light
Self-portrait in the Imagic Light room


  1. hey john! great post..the installation looks fantastic! I dont get a chance to check out visual art these days and this looks like something I would want to experience.

    hope all is well...

  2. Ryan, it is pretty cool. I'd say check it out when you can.

    I hope the East Side interview went well! Who's the principal over there these days?

  3. hey john!

    THe principal is a guy named Mark Federman...dont know anything about him. I didnt meet him when I visited but im sure I will soon if im called back for an interview...

    this was an intervisitation...not an official interview. theyre going over resumes now..and if they like me, they'll ask me back for an interview....

  4. Ryan, Federman wasn't there when I taught there; the principal's first name was Randi (her last name wasn't Cohen...I can't remember it, but she was great). I hope you get the callback. It's a great school.