Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Thirty Seconds Until You are Totally Inspired

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post comparing texture in music to planting design.  The other day, I read this quote by one of my favorite landscape architects in the world, London-based Tom Stuart-Smith, which also compares music to the garden.  Like everything he does, the quote is simple, yet briming in shimmering detail.  Enjoy!

"I rarely listen to music while I’m working since I cannot concentrate.  But instead, some musical phrase takes up permanent residence in a chamber of my ind and accompanies me through the day.  In one very facile respect music is like a garden, with its contrast between form and content.  The formal structure of music is often quite rigid, as with sonota form, which is then contrasted with the embellishment of detail. 

"With Beethoven’s late quartets and piano sonatas, contrast is taken to an extreme: an almost savage starkness and sparse construction is set against passages of eloquent lyricism or gaping silences.  If this music depicts anything, it is a succession of emotional experiences.  Perhaps this is like a garden, with its crescendos and diminuendos, its sudden bursts of energy and silences—all set within an overriding architecture.  Doesn’t the garden at its best become an abstract expression of man’s connection to the world beyond himself?  Like music . . . but just a little less turbulent than Beethoven.” 

Landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith.  Quote originally appeared in Garden Design Journal, September 2004

11 comments:

  1. One of my favorite designers too. He points to the emotional experience of the garden, which really comes out of some kind of intellectual construct--form vs. content, or perhaps form and content--that awakens deep-seated emotions. I really like the comparison with Beethoven's late quartets; it makes the meaning so clear, pared to the bone, so to speak. Thanks for passing on the quote.

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    1. Yes! The analogy really made that point much more elegantly than I ever could (and I've been trying). I listened to those quartets after reading this quote and even though I know little about music, it made even more sense to me.

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  2. I always hear a symphony in my mind when I view a beautifully designed garden. As my eye wanders over the plantings the music flows along. The melody and the greenery mix and mingle until they become one perfect production. Nature has always been my favorite theater. I guess I thought I was the only one who heard the music! Thank you for sharing the quote, Thomas!

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    1. Hi Linda,

      Yes, I really like music as an analogy to the garden. It captures the dynamic quality of living materials better than other artistic analogies like painting or sculpture.

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  3. More to chew on...slowly, thoughtfully, savoring every bite and smell. The wisdom that pours from the DC-Atlanta belt in my same Z 7-8a is amazing, especially that yours' comes from the same metro area as the lack thereof from our federal gov't! Thanks for more inspiration.

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  4. Swoon. So talented, so articulate!

    Music, gardens and art are definitely the physical manifestations of human emotion.

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  5. Excellent title. I couldn't help but click.

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    1. I have to write something dramatic to get people to click.

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  6. Thomas thanks so much for the conversation. I have been married to my wonderful bride for over 30 years. She has been a musician and teacher for all of those years. I read her the quote and I discussed the music components with her. I too am musically illiterate and find it difficult to carry a conversation. However, we both agreed we have had moments where nature has orchestrated a composition with is hard to comprehend but a pleasure to enjoy.

    Her comments on Beethoven's late work were very interesting. His inspiration for his work came from long walks in nature, where he could hear the music in his head. Beethoven was totally deaf during this time. He actually cut the legs of his piano down so he could feel the vibration on the wood floor when he would play his compositions.

    I too have felt music as I'm in the garden. I suppose being a deaf musician would be like a gardener without sight, you couldn't see but you could smell, touch, and hear.

    It causes me to wonder if I would garden without sight?

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    1. Greggo,

      What a gorgeous comment! I read it three times to savor it. I read a little bit about those pieces, but your descriptions really brought it alive for me. Please thank your bride for me for adding a lot more depth to my understanding of that quote.

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