Culture Rover

#46 - House Music

Jonathan and Anna Wege's Symphonic House on the banks of Lake Michigan is comprised of strings that stretch around the furniture, up the stairs, and through the windows. The couple describes their abode as a giant instrument that they inhabit from within, sometimes playing the strings themselves using rosin on gloves, or letting the wind play the house. The sounds that get produced (samples can be heard on their website) are soothing, harp-like tones that, to me, echo the ripples of waves washing in from the lake.

As Jonathan Wege (pronounced WEGG-ee) pointed out in a New York Times article (House and Home section, Thursday, 20 January 2005), the sounds of a house often mark it as home as much as the look. Architecture is much more than visual: it is smells in the kitchen or fireplace, touch of the carpet or hardwood below the feet, and sounds: the radiator clanking, the pipes flowing with water, the doors groaning, the window panes shaking in a powerful gust.

Sounds seem to especially mark the inside against the outside of the house. As Deleuze and Guattari famously evoked with the concept of the birdsong's deterritorialization and reterritorialization, the sounds of home are liminal -- sonic walls that denote interiority and exteriority, subjectivity of the self and the atmosphere outside that locates this self-identity in a larger world of social life and natural processes.

Unlike the material components of the home, which we continually reinforce, renovate, and repair to maintain the house's integrity, the sonic dimensions are more pliable. They mark the house's inability to fend off entropy even as they signify the continual reassertion of the house as a distinct entity. The music at the piano, the crackle of the fireplace, the whistle of the tea kettle mark the constitution of home even as the groans, the whimpers, the clanking insist on its demise.

We exist in the in-between, hemming ourselves into being and humming our lives away.

22 January 2005

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