On December 9th 2015, nearly 40 RISD Architecture students presented ‘Galapagos In C’: an interactive, multimedia performance combining architecture, performance, and music. Terry Riley’s canonical 1964 piece “In C” was accompanied by Community MusicWorks alumni with composer and music scholar Stuart Isacoff of the Wall Street Journal, playing piano.
The performance was the culminating gesture of two collaborative Architecture studios co-taught by architect/director David Gersten and composer/musician Michael Harrison. This is a first-of-its-kind project held at RISD
In a series of call and response duets, listening and speaking to the paintings within the RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery, the work created a conversation with the room, drawing out the paintings into the sounds of ‘In C’ using spoken word, sound installations, performative gestures, and projections.
About the Galapagos Project
The idea of “Galapagos in C” was conceived as part of the ongoing “Galapagos Project,” an archipelago of works initiated last year through Arts Letters & Numbers. The global initiative aims to promote collaboration, foster creative alliance, and advocate for greater empathy, compassion, and ethics in developing new spaces for education and new forms of knowledge. Recognizing cultural diversity as a range of ways of knowing, this project proposes a new vision of education: a Galapagos of forms of knowledge with intellectual force and capacity to make significant contributions towards creating a better world.
Quotes from the Wall Street Journal Article
"Pulling it off was a serious challenge requiring discipline, a willingness to take risks, and real grit. The result was simply exhilarating.”
"Interdisciplinarity is a popular buzzword on many campuses, but in most cases it remains a mere slogan. Here was a shining model for other schools—“
"The aim of the presenters was to create a “conversation” with the artworks on display. So during the performance Mr. Gersten’s students roamed the Grand Gallery and mimicked the postures of the figures in various paintings (and sometimes the musicians). It made aesthetic sense: Though they were highlighting individual details, collectively these separate elements unified to form a greater canvas, much as do the 53 musical modules in Mr. Riley’s composition.”
"The ensemble veered from time to time toward chaos. But just when things seemed to be going off the rails, a choir or instrumentalist would assert a particular pattern, and we would be back on track.”