September 15–18 and 22–25, 2011
For the second edition of stillspotting nyc, composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1935, Paide, Estonia) and the New York City and Oslo-based architectural firm Snøhetta collaborate on a series of stillspots around Lower Manhattan that explore the special relationship between space and sound. Pärt’s concept of tintinnabuli (“little bells” in Latin), which forms the basis of most of his work, was born from a deeply rooted desire for a reduced realm of sound that could not be measured, as it were, in kilometers or even meters but only in millimeters. In our busy everyday lives in cities such as New York, we often don’t realize how our ears continually need time to adjust to strong differences in the sounds that surround us—just as the pupils of the eyes only gradually accommodate to the change from light to dark. Pärt believes that our mind and senses do register these differences unconsciously. Oftentimes the mysterious phenomenon of sensory adaptation is best observed through reduction rather than growing complexity. Reduction certainly doesn’t mean simplification, but it is the way—at least in an ideal scenario—to the most intense awareness of the essence of stimuli.
For To a Great City, the architects have selected—and subtly altered by the placement of large-scale weather balloons—indoor and outdoor spaces that embody the concept of a central musical tone and extend the perception of sound into the realm of space. The spherical balloons have a unifying and holistic character and simultaneously create and ignore space: something that can also be said of Pärt’s music.