Monday, October 31, 2005

I don't much like the current management at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Mostly for little things... like their apparent plan to trash their Japanese rock garden, designed by Kinsaku Nakane, one of the masters of the form of the last century, because it conflicts with the site master plan of the director's favorite architect, Norman Foster. (There's a glass wall which seems to go right through the middle of the site on the building models, and when I ask the staff, they say it'll just be gone). Gee, if you've got a world-class architect designing an art museum, couldn't he figure out how to design around a major pre-existing, site-specific installation in an important non-Western tradition?

It was in this frame of mind that I saw the Gamelan. It's a matched set of instruments for a whole percussion orchestra which was put on exhibit, a few months ago, in the Asian galleries upstairs. And in the manner of most musical instruments in museums, it was silent. Seeing things like this always brings to my mind an anthropologist's comment I remember from quite some time ago, about how the masks and sculptures he'd seen in Africa were living objects in the hands of the people that made them --- but that stuck behind glass in New York or Boston, they seemed dead and embalmed.

Naturally, I thought about blogging this, with some further notes on the unintentional grisliness of museum culture generally. And so I looked to the signage to collect notes.

There's been an ensemble doing open rehearsals on it on alternate Wednesday evenings throughout the fall, and that will continue until a concert next January.

Sometimes I may be a bit too much of a cynic.


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