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Context — The Museum I’d Like to See

Yesteday, admidst driving rain, Marina and I drove an hour to my mother’s house,then took her on a 2-hour drive up to Bard College. Bard holds a summer music festival,, and this year the focus is on Alban Berg. As it happens, my grandfather knew Berg quite well, and my mother wanted to come to hear the music. In the long car ride, she began to tell us stories about being a young girl who had the giants of early 20th Century music come to her home — The Great Man, Arnold Schoenberg and his two eager disciples, Berg and Webern. The Discussions at Bard were terrific — like a good graduate school seminar — everyone smart, informed, having opnions — and a right to them based on real scholarship. And then we heard five pieces: composed in the late 1920s or early 1930s — the real discovery for me was; Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905–63); Quartet for Strings No. 1, “Carillon” (1933) — I had never heard of him, and the piece was wonderful. But all of this is preamble.

Listining to five different composers who were active in Vienna in the 1920s and 30s — I realized that you simply cannot look at the famous paintings made in Vienna from the turn of the century on (Klimt, Schiele, Kokoshka…) without hearing the music from the time. This is not a new insight — I found this site which shows that a whole program series in London was built around exactly the same idea: But imagine the museum of the future — (or the Museum App of the Future Ipad) where you would experience music of a given time period, see the art of that time, read the headlines of the time, watch the newsreels of the time, dip into the diaries and books of the time all in one combined experience. You would not look at paintings silent on a wall, with a guard hushing you. Rather you would experience the world view of a time and place, such that one set of creators made those paintings and another this music and a third that political statement.

Think of how the Museum of the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s might be — rock posters, the Dead, the Airplane, Douglas Engelbart and his experiments in Hypertext, Ken Kesey, Philip K. Dick — competing visions of either utopia or dystopia — California falling into the ocean, or rising into the New Age — a New Age of Ascended Masters, or of Xandadu — infinite computer connections –; or was the future in Peoples Parks and Panther revolution — it was all there together as experience, and thus in art. Museum as a way to re-enter the experience of a time, in all of its expressions — that’s what I’d like.


  1. I’m spending the summer in Europe – mostly London – and have been focusing on the multi-media presentations at various historical sites. There’s lots of great things happening there – poetry, music, light projections, video, even live characters. I’ll be blogging about my findings in late September at Interesting Nonfiction for Kids:

  2. Marc Aronson says:

    sounds great, let us know when your posts are up