Manifesto juxtaposes music and architecture, two forms of expression that employ rhythm, texture, harmony, proportion, and dynamics (according to the theories of renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti). Mathias Goeritz, in his Manifesto de la arquitectura emocional and it’s built form, El Eco, added emotion to this list of architecture’s essential characteristics. I have responded to Goeritz with gospel music, a form that puts emotion in the service of spiritual elevation.
In an exercise in integrating music with Mathias Goeritz’ architectural manifesto, I invited New York composer Will Orzo to develop a basic gospel melody for a selection of key phrases from Goeritz’ text. The performer of Manifiesto, Rachel Sharples, is a young gospel artist who has been singing at her church, Victory Assembly of God in Queens, New York, since she was a young girl. The three of us met at a New York recording studio in late May, 2015 with Will’s composition and a copy of Goeritz’ manifesto, translated into English. We recorded Rachel performing Will’s melody as well as a series of improvisations on significant phrases and words I selected from the text. I have arranged this sound work to have a spirit of randomness, as if we are making it up in the recording studio, experimenting incrementally with fitting one genre (a cultural manifesto) into another (religious music). A manifesto is a rhetorical device carefully designed to—in its structure and choice of words—ignite the passions of its listeners. For the early twentieth century cultural avant-gardes a manifesto was the requisite parting shot for a new artistic movement. Similar to how a political manifesto was written to launch a new campaign, an artistic manifesto was written to outline a movement’s plan of action and ideals. The prose of a manifesto is declarative, proselytizing, not unlike a forceful religious sermon. It lays out the ideas and beliefs of a movement, but it also operates as the movement’s emotional engine. Mathias Goeritz’ 1953 Manifiesto de la arquitectura emocional is true to form. It attacks the contemporary status quo—the funcionalismo of the early 1950s—and insists on a new direction in architecture: a return to the emotion and spirituality he recognized in the pyramid, the gothic cathedral, and the baroque palace. Goeritz’ text is filled with references to the spiritual and emotional potential of architectonic space. María Teresa de Alba, in her essay Cabaret Voltaire, saw Goeritz in pursuit of “un arte sagrado, mediador entre dioses y hombres, mensaje y mensajero.” (“a sacred art, mediator between god and man, message and messenger.”) And it is true, the text that is sung by Rachel Sharples in Manifiesto contains language that would not be out of place in a song performed at a religious gathering: The man of our time, be he creator or recipient, aspires to something more than a house that is attractive, agreeable and appropriate to his needs. He requests, or will request one day, of architecture and its modern means and materials, spiritual elevation.
Gospel is a musical form with roots in the work songs and negro spirituals of early African America. To share hymns and sacred texts among a congregation, a song form was developed using repetition of phrases and call-and-response. These devices, along with a biblical syntax, are still the principal characteristics of modern gospel music. I became interested in gospel as a functional musical form. To me, it has developed over the centuries as an effective means to deliver an important message as profoundly as possible. The musical delivery, designed to generate strong emotion and collective fellow-feeling is what we were experimenting with in the recording studio. The idea was to apply that delivery to phrases from Goeritz’ manifesto, to be performed live and to be played back in the high, cubic volume of El Eco. The goal has been to generate—in Goeritz’ uppercase—a SHOUT that will ECHO…