The Music Room
THE MUSIC ROOM was installed in Berlin’s House of World Culture in April of 2016.
12 channel audio installation, antique glass Indian chandelier parts, audio derived from the first recordings made in India, c.1902-1920–sourced from 78rpm discs
Before records, people enjoyed music only in live performance, obviously enough. From the Mughal era through the Raj era and beyond, an important room in any wealthy, aristocratic household in India was the music room. Musicians were employed by wealthy land owners or were under the patronage of princes.
“I visited some of the palaces of raj families…There is nothing particularly striking or different from a European palace except they are mad on crystal chandeliers.” (from the diary of Fred Gaisberg, who made the first commercial recordings in India, 1902). Hand painted, etched glass, tinkling crystal, the more magnificent the better.
When records began to appear, and economies began to change, musicians gained a new way to earn money and fame, and so the need for music rooms died out. Musicians moved on to a different type of patronage and a new place in society.
With this installation it is as if the chandeliers are full of memories of the old music rooms, like seashells hold the sound of the ocean, disembodied, abstracted, the sound moving like light.
“After the final concert, on which he has expended his last remaining funds, the zamindar (a wealthy land owner) wanders drunkenly through his now deserted music room…he sees reflected in his glass of brandy the lights of the chandelier above him going out, one by one…” (from The Music Room: Distant Music, by Philip Kemp, an essay about Satyajit Ray’s 1958 masterpiece, Jalsaghar -The Music Room.).