Last Night I Dreamt I Was a Robot
Selfies on Parade
No, these are not leaked track titles from Beyoncé’s next album. They are songs from Practicing Spaces, a mixtape that collects the work of other, much less well-known musicians who have one conspicuous thing tying them together: they’re all architects.
Readers may know Michael Meredith of MOS Architects and Florian Idenburg of SO – IL from their work in their day jobs, but by night, these architects unleash their true passions, plug in the amp, and let the music play.
Melissa J. Frost, a designer and studio instructor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, compiled and produced the mixtape after a conversation with Eric Bunge of nArchitects made her realize that several of her architect friends had bands on the side. “Eric was saying that he tries to get together to play music with Florian Idenburg and Michael Meredith, and he still has a practice space in his basement,” Frost said. She quickly tracked down music from other figures in the field, like Michael Young, her master’s thesis advisor at Princeton, and Wendy Gilmartin, a colleague at Pomona.
Some of the tracks are deep cuts that date back to youthful experimentations. Daniel Barber, now an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, closes out the tape with the oldest inclusion, a recording from the stage of Lollapalooza 1995, where he performed as part of the band Blowhole. Others are evidence that some architects are actively writing, recording, and performing music. Neil Denari’s track, Music For One, comes fresh from 2018.
The tape pulls from over a dozen different acts, but they all hew to a similar aesthetic. Many are non-vocal, with electronic and guitar instrumentation and meandering song structures. “I think, like, a more instrumental or abstracted relationship to a song is inherently connected to spatial awareness or spatial perception,” Frost hypothesized. “I do think there are aesthetic connections between each person’s individual song, and their individual work,” Frost said. “I think with most of them it’s extremely obvious…Michael Meredith’s kind of pared down electronic awkward sampled song really looks like their, I think they call it, their 1983 Atari-style drawings.”
Frost released the tape as part of her IIIII Columns project, an online platform where she has published other work that falls outside traditional disciplinary boundaries, like a harm-reduction guide for performance venues or “a catalog of marxist modernist home goods.”
The mixtape, which is being published in a limited run on physical cassette tapes, “is supposed to be kind of difficult to get ahold of,” said Frost, but she is planning a series of listening parties across the country.
Frost, a musician herself, declined to include her work in the mix. “It was a little too weird to put myself on it,” she said, “so I decided not to.”
To order the mixtape, visit the IIIII Columns site here.
Michael Meredith – Dadwhyareyousonegative
Tim Durfee – Selfies on Parade
Eric Bunge – Cellar
Kazys Varnelis – Stillwater
James Graham & Stephen Nielson – Last Night I Dreamt I Was a Robot
Neil Denari – Music For One
Mariana Ibañez, Simon Kim – Hate 1,2 (stop the violence)
Wendy Gilmartin – White Midnight
Florian Idenburg – Track 12
Enrique Ramirez – Lullaby From The West Coast Sleepers
Benjamin Bratton – Texture 4 George Crumb
Michael Young – If it Falls Apart
Alfredo Thiermann – Land in the Sky
Matt Olsen – Motion Block
Esther Choi – track 3
Daniel Barber – Needlefoam