Activating Architecture: Angelo Branduardi plays Venice

Ever heard of "activating architecture"?

Most of us probably hardly notice much architecture... We think of it (if we think of it at all) as a passive structure, doing nothing but sheltering us from the elements as we go about our daily business. But when we "activate" architecture, in the most basic sense, we (consciously or subconsciously) deliberately interact with it, creating new, greater meanings and experiences as a result.

Perfect example was a *free* concert given in Venice last night by a major Italian artist, Angelo Branduardi. Now, it's hard to explain Branduardi if you haven't heard him (which you can do on his MySpace page, if you want...) He's kinda like a mix of Pink Floyd, ELO and Peter Gabriel, that is, if they were to play celtic/medieval music.

And the venue was extra-special! Branduardi played in the Basillica of Saints John & Paul (Santi Giovanni e Paolo), a medieval, Gothic church which would more than suffice as a cathedral in most cities (but just happens to have to play second fiddle, as it were, to Saint Mark's Cathedral here in Venice...)

Now, clever me... I managed to forget any and all of my little electronic gadgets which would have permitted me to share just a small snippet of the experience with you. (Actually, that's not quite true... I had managed to bring my digital camera; I just had forgotten its battery at home in the charger! Argh!!) So, let's see if I can even vaguely reconstruct the experience for you, here and now, approximating it with photos from Branduardi's fan club page...

The picture at right is a photo of the interior of the church (from its Wikipedia page, taken from near the high altar, looking back down the nave toward the entrance of the basilica). Needless to say, it's huge (just check out the difference in scale between the people and the ceilings!)

Imagine, if you will, this scene at night... and the church filled to standing room only. The focus of the concert was a pared-down presentation of Branduardi's album of songs to celebrate Saint Francis of Assisi. So, amplified, electric medieval music was reverberating off those splendid ceilings... (not to mention brooding shadows of the statues of various saints and the tombs of long-dead knights and rulers being cast by the red stage lights and then creeping down the walls).

Now, I've often heard the churches of Venice "activated" before, by organs, choirs, string quartets, and even Tibetan "throat singing" and a Flamenco Mass... although not at the same time! :-) But what a beautiful sound resonated from Branduardi's electric violin, as he sang lauds to St. Francis!

Even more glorious was when he closed the concert with a sweet ballad which had orginated on the medieval pilgrims' road to San Juan de Compostela in Spain called "La stella mattutina" (or "The Morning Star") on a lovely instrument he called the chitarra-arpa (or "harp-guitar"). I found what looks like a cellphone video from a smaller, more informal gig Branduardi played a few months ago, so at least this way you can get a (very!) small sense of the artist, the music, and that magnificent instrument (pictured at left)! Enjoy!!

1 comment:

illustrata said...

If I had only known. I suppose I need to get on the RSS Activating Architecture feed. Or someone should create one...yes?