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The Making of the Museum of Jazz and Art -Part 1: The Idea

Join David Allen, CEO Founder, Board Chairman for a multi-part series around The Making of the Museum of Jazz and Art. Each part is presented to help us better understand or at least answer the question “Why this building design?” -

When Everything Falls Apart, remember the importance of “Thought & Character”

When I was in college around 1983, President Ronald Regan decided to cut spending in higher education that led to a pretty stiff reduction in college financial aid. Now understand, this led to a lot of folks without adequate financial support, not just to pay tuition but for housing… Yea, at that time I was homeless in college and attending one of the Top Architectural & Engineering Design curricula in the nation, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. It was through this pain, suffering and acknowledgement that my character & faith began to build. You see, I believe I am literally “what I think” and the collection of these thoughts became my character.

“You Must Love the Note, before you play it.” Dizzy G.

I met Dizzy Gillespie around 1987 through Dr Margie Baker. I continued to chat with him several times over the years until his passing in 1993. What I learned and what he taught me was to love what you do before you do it. In addition, Dizzy mentioned that he hung around poets, artists, dancers and film producers. He mentioned the time that James Baldwin told him that, “…we are all Poets”. Dizzy also connected me to the thoughts or thinking of Pythagoras, John Coltrane and Dr. Yusef Lateef and the relationship to music & geometries including Architecture and thought I should research more on these topics.

It wasn’t until around year 2003 that I thought more deeply about the interrelationship among the Arts. However, I did attempt back in 1989 to design, engineer and develop my first real estate development project in East Oakland, a residential duplex and named it “Salt Peanuts”, a 1942 Bebop tune composed by Dizzy. Salt Peanuts is a contrafact of “I Got Rhythm”. It has a different Melody but the same 32-Bar Structure (AABA) and Harmony as “I Got Rhythm.”

Marcus Vitruvius Roman Architect, 15 BC

Vitruvius, like myself was a Roman Architectural Engineer (Architecture & and Civil Engineering). Vitruvius was the author of “De architectura” better known today as the “The Ten Books of Architecture”. The book was dedicated to the emperor of Augustus.

His book had a deep effect and influence on early Renaissance artist, architects and philosophers. Vitruvius discussed the design of buildings should relate to the “Human Scale or Proportion” to the Human Body. Therefore, this ideal led to the famous Renaissance drawing by Leonarda da Vinci “Vitruvian Man”. Harmony is a obscure and difficult musical science, he says & describes voicing in the form of intervals, pitch & tones. Moreover, Vitruvius said, “Music assists in the use of harmonic and mathematical proportions.” Other statements including that of John Coltrane also picks up on is, “The Astronomer and Musician delight in similar proportions for the positions of the stars…”. As I started to put the pieces together, I noticed that there exist this “right brain” relationship between Music and Architecture.

Pythagoras of Somas, 495 BC

Everything is numbers as Pythagoras would say. Some folks believe that a theory of Music is a said to have been invented by Pythagoras, who said that everything is numbers or at least were the principals and elements of all things and composed the harmonic proportions of the whole world. Pythagoras is thought to have created or having brought measure to music by the study of pipes, bells etc. He also describes mathematic as being composed of these 4- studies: astronomy, GEOMETRY, arithmetic and MUSIC. “Music occupies the Senses and influences the Soul.” I believe Plato stated that, “…the soul of the world is knit together by the harmony of music”. A POWERFUL REASON to continue Advocating MUSIC IN SCHOOLS & for Medical Treatment. Here’s an interpretation of the Pythagoras followers, as noted in a 2002 Philophony article:

  • Astronomy as a magnitude = motion

  • Geometry as a magnitude = rest

  • Arithmetic as numbers as “absolute”

  • Music as numbers as “applied”

In searching for the links between Architecture and Music, we are trying in a sense to link Magnitudes at Rest with Numbers Applied. Or for the Museum of Jazz and Art, we wanted to incorporate this language of Jazz Improvisation and reflective mood while engaging the senses. We believe in the dynamic movement of Architecture and Sensory Engagement.

John Coltrane, 1967 (Circle of Tones)

As Dizzy once told me, John Coltrane was aware of the relationship between music and math -to the point his latest Albums were named, Stellar Regions (1967, released 1995), Interstellar Space (1967, released 1974), Cosmic Music (1960’s, released 1968). It was mentioned that Trane would write tunes starting from the center and “dynamically” rather than “statically” attempt to move in both directions Harmonically. I did not understand this until I heard his Jazz tune Giant Steps. LeRoi Jones (now known as Amiri Baraka) in 1963 stated, “…Trane’s influence moves in both directions”. (article for Metronome: Black Music). Coltrane developed this diagram, “Circle of Tones” as a gift to his friend and mentor Dr. Yusef Lateef for his birthday around 1967. Dr Lateef reproduced the diagram in his book Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns.

This relationship between Math, Music & Geometry helped shape my thoughts on the Making of the Museum of Jazz and Art Design… Therefore, I started to develop a set of “Principals for Composition” and “Procedures for Design” using some Music Vocabularies such as Harmony, Melody, & Rhythm. When considering the design of the Museum, we traveled and studied over 20+ Museums around the World. We studied them not just for their design parameters but also considered their relative social impact, & exhibit or visitor experience. Some Museum designs are programmed to take a back seat to the exhibited art or storytelling. We felt that Jazz was so intertwined within the arts, science and mathematics as previously noted, that the Building must relate to the vocabulary of Jazz Music. Therefore, we broke the design up in two parts: Exterior and Interior. Where the exterior relates to the Musical Language of Harmony and the interior relates to the Musical Language of Melody.

The Making of the Museum of Jazz and Art is a “A Multiple Part Series”. We encourage your input as a very important component that we would like to use in the further “Fine Tuning” of MOja’s Programming and Visitor’s experience expectations.


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