Music is a great source of inspiration for artist Waltercio Caldas, and with it he encourages us to engage with his current exhibition at the Blanton in a whole new way. The artist provided the museum with a list of his favorite tracks—all masterpieces—and we set out to design an immersive audio experience using a portable listening device that visitors could wear around the gallery as they looked at his art. Just as the exhibition, The Nearest Air: A Survey of Works by Waltercio Caldas, explores the Brazilian artist’s lifetime of work, this playlist highlights his long history of music appreciation.
The Caldas Playlist features artists like Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Lennie Tristano, Eric Satie, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Ludwig van Beethoven. The range of musical selections echoes the artist’s own mix of international influences. The best way to begin listening to the device is to plug in a pair of headphones and hold down the PLAY button until you hear the soft Brazilian welcome of João Gilberto’s Bossa Nova. The lighthearted song is a promise that more whimsy awaits in the seductive objects that populate the horizon lines throughout the large ground floor gallery.
The transcendental stylings of contemporary legend Steve Reich come next: you are invited on an organic examination of timbre that he composed over two years in the mid-1970s. The album Music for 18 Musicians was recorded several times over the following decades, and every recording is different. Some say you can’t really understand Reich unless you are listening to a live performance. Caldas says the same about viewing art in-person versus looking at a picture in a catalogue or on a screen. Nothing can compare with experiencing an object in person.
The thoughtful Duke Ellington takes over the musical conversation on his piano. Accompanied by his articulate and sentimental phrasings, we may be inspired to dance in the space between the objects, exploring it as an extension of the simple yet precise materials. There is a second Duke Ellington composition in the playlist that the Modern Jazz Quartet performed in tribute to him: It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing). Throughout the exhibition, you will also notice Caldas make references in homage to legendary artists like Diego Velázquez, Giotto di Bondone, Alberto Giacometti, and Pablo Picasso. Elsewhere in the mix, you can also hear the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra honor Benny Goodman and Igor Stravinsky with their rendition of Ebony Concerto.
The music slinks forward with the raw energy and poise of free jazz improvisation that won Charlie Haden a Grammy in 2001. El Ciego (The Blind) is a sultry tango that sparks a romance between the sculptures’ reflections and textures. Charlie Parker thrills us with Billie’s Bounce (Take 1) from The Complete Savoy and Dial Studio Recordings 1944-48. These smokin’ hot recording sessions saw the frantic Bird spend years developing himself as an artist. The whole audio experience ends with a selection from Thelonious Monk’s second solo album, Alone in San Francisco, recorded live in 1959. Caldas is fascinated by Monk’s creative process involving endless problem making and problem solving; we can even find a sculpture titled Thelonious Monk in the gallery.
What sort of connections will you make between what you see and what you hear? I suggest inviting some friends along for a Caldas listening party. The playlist contains 17 tracks and has a total runtime of 1:15:00 (one hour and fifteen minutes). Use the FORWARD and BACK buttons to control your experience. Worried about closing out the world with a pair of headphones? Caldas says, “people are always alone when they are in front of objects of art”, and they should enjoy it!
The Caldas Playlist buttons can be found at either the museum’s admissions desk or the nearby information desk. Can’t make it to the museum? You can also listen to most of the tracks online at the Caldas Spotify Playlist.
This playlist provides an opportunity to experience art in a new, immersive, and augmented way – something that the Blanton aspires to provide all visitors.