Some Notes on Notes
March 2, 2013 § Leave a comment
In an earlier post I discussed the research of music historian David Patterson who has collected the musical compositions of William Cary Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s father. A CD with several of the senior Wright’s compositions performed by Chicago area musicians was released this week. I have a copy of the newly minted CD. The songs are 19th century parlor music (the “pop” music of the day) which sounds quaint to our modern ears, but I found listening to them as I read the liner notes a fascinating experience. For more information, click here.
Patterson is continuing to investigate the influence of William C. Wright on his son as well as the place of music in the thought and work of the architect. Certainly the Lawrence/Dana House could be a prime resource for Patterson’s research because Wright’s interest in music is central to the house design. The three musician’s galleries and the towering “organ pipes” above the Farrand Cecilian roll player (described in an earlier post) dominate the major public spaces of the house.
According to one scholar, Wright used music in a more subtle way to endorse the sentiments that Alfred Lloyd Tennyson expressed in his poem “Flower in a Crannied Wall.” Etched on the back of the statue that greets visitors at the entryway of the Lawrence/Dana House, the poem proposes that all the laws and meaning of existence in the universe can be found in a small flower. A staff with a treble clef and three chords is inscribed beneath the poem. Narciso G. Meocal contends in his essay “Taliesin, the Gilmore House, and the Flower in the Crannied Wall” that since the chords are written in the traditional “amen” progression, Wright was saying “Thus be it so” (a translation of the Hebrew word “amen”). Meocal’s theory of the three chords offers a dramatic illustration of the legacy bestowed on Frank Lloyd Wright by his father who was, among other things, a preacher, organist, and his son’s music teacher.