Monday, February 07, 2011

L@TE Friday Nights @ BAM/PFA

The Berkeley Art Museum is decamping from its 1970 building on Bancroft Street to a repurposed building on Addison Street near the BART station in 2014. A structural analysis in 1997 found that the modernist concrete structure was "seismically inadequate," so they braced the building enough to possibly withstand a good shaking until a new museum could be created.

In the meantime, a Friday evening series of concerts, film showings, light shows, jazz jams and other events have been happening in the space for the last three years. They always sound fascinating on paper, particularly those curated by Sarah Cahill (above), but since I am lazy and never get to Berkeley, last Friday's concert was my first.

The biggest concern was that the high, open space of the museum would be an acoustical dead zone, like Wilsey Court in the deYoung Museum, or the lobby of SFMOMA, or the Green Room in the San Francisco Veterans Building. Instead, the dynamically shaped blocks of concrete at the Berkeley Art Museum ended up creating something of an acoustical shell that happily bounced the sound back to the listeners. This was particularly true for the two homemade electronic instruments, the Quadrachord and Hurdy Grande, in the photo above.

The instruments were created by composer Paul Dresher (above) and Joel Davel (below) and the sound was something like a cross between a synthesizer and a marimba and a theremin.

It wasn't my cup of sonic tea at all, but it was fascinating to hear, and the large museum space, with its "controversial" curved wooden seating that you can lay on, was a cool setting. The price is right too, $7, or free if you're a Cal student or have a museum membership.


s said...

the seating is not metal, it is curved wood over a foam core.

sfmike said...

Dear s: Thanks for the correction. I'll change it in the copy.

namastenancy said...

Did you get to see any of the exhibits? They have three good ones - Eva Hesse, Whistler and the art of the Quing (?) Dynasty. I hate that space as it's a bitch to display art. I'm amazed that the acoustics are good.

sfmike said...

Dear Nancy: You're seeing the Quing (?) Dynasty room in the first photo, though I was then told I couldn't take photos in the galleries which seemed rather odd. Loved the Whistlers, and let's just say that the Eva Hesse ephemera was not a good introduction to her work.