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Arts Notes

Disney Hall's first meeting

October 13, 2002|Mark Swed

Architects and acousticians are natural enemies who often fight like cats and dogs over priorities between design and sound. Not so, by all accounts, the music-loving architect Frank O. Gehry and architecture-aficionado acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, who have been collaborating on the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Still, Gehry sheepishly admits that he recently did something that upset Toyota.

With the scaffolding coming down inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Gehry says he couldn't stand the suspense a moment longer. Late one night last month, he called up Los Angeles Philharmonic music director Esa-Pekka Salonen and asked him if he wanted to do something they weren't supposed to do.

Salonen said yes.

They then called the Philharmonic's concertmaster, Martin Chalifour, and asked him to meet them at the hall with his violin.

The interior is still in rough form, with neither the stage built nor seats installed. But they had Chalifour stand as close as possible to where the stage will be and play. Gehry and Salonen listened from the rear of the hall.

Gehry acknowledges that he has no idea how much you can tell at this point about what the hall ultimately will sound like, but he says that he was so floored by the immediacy and beauty of the first music made in it that his eyes welled up in tears. He turned to Salonen and saw that the conductor had tears in his eyes as well.

So why would Toyota be upset when Gehry told him the good news? He wanted to be there too.

And what if the sonic immediacy doesn't survive the completion of the interior? "I've made a mental note of its present state," Gehry says, "so I'll have an idea of what we should tear down."

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