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Learning Languages

07.19.13 / Doug Shilo, LEED AP BD+C

Photo by Crystal Herry Photography

Joshua Abraham, a second-year ARCer, has a secret talent – he plays the saxaphone. This talent lay dormant until recently, when he conspicuously played “The Way You Look Tonight” to his new wife at their wedding reception. I, for one, have a few questions.

Who got you into all this?
"My dad played trombone, and both my parents were believers in music lessons. So, I got started on the piano when I was 5. In 4th grade, I wanted to play something cool like drums or guitar, but we had an alto sax laying around, so I picked that up.
I grew up in Central New York, and I think there’s something about the weather being so terrible that makes for a great music scene. Those cloudy days are great for practice – nothing else to do!"

Josh is onto something. Just look at Seattle, New Orleans, and Nashville! Clearly, precipitation = great music!


"In high school, our jazz band made it to the Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center, NYC. While attending Cornell, I got to rub shoulders with top jazz performers all the time, and I was gigging for events around town. Jazz music is apparently very versatile, and I got lots of work."

In school, someone always had music playing out loud. Moving into the office culture, many people still opt for the headphones. Do you like to listen to music while you work?
"No – I find music very distracting at work. I can’t listen passively and work on anything that takes critical thinking. I don’t do the headphones unless it’s a repetitive task that doesn’t take much brain power. There is some ambient music that I could see working to, but I prefer to concentrate on the music – if I’m listening."

Where is your ideal listening place, then? Do you sit in a room by yourself with the lights turned out – to get really into it?
(laughs) "Well … yes, sometimes. My favorite places are tiny, irregularly-shaped jazz clubs where everyone is crammed together. The Village Vanguard in NYC is great."

So, if not through the headphones, where do you see your jazz influences coming into the work you do at ARC?
"I think music and architecture are both languages. At first, you can’t really make sense of it. If you take the time, though, you learn slowly, through imitation, just copying bit-size riffs and phrases you hear. As you go along, you start to string these phrases together into unique combinations. With practice, you can improvise, solving problems on the spot with the confidence and a voice that only comes with experience."

Here’s a sample (no listening while working).
http://jazz.arts.cornell.edu/soundclips/cornell_university_jazz_ensemble_I_if_there_were_water.mp3


 

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