To many who travel regularly past Colorado College, the not-even-year-old Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center may already have faded into the landscape of everyday life, just another landmark of the daily grind to and from work or class.
But to 41-year-old New York composer and saxophonist Patrick Zimmerli (photographed below), the building that angularly thrusts from the corner of Cache la Poudre Street and Cascade Avenue remains anything but forgettable. He considers it an inspiration, as well as a long-awaited catalyst.
"I've always admired architecture," Zimmerli says. "I've followed that art form for quite some time and I've had a lot of heroes [in the industry] whose work has inspired me ... But I never really thought about, 'How could I express this architectural idea in terms of music?' So, for this piece, I decided to try to do just that."
The piece to which he's referring is "Light, Color, Line, Symbol," which was commissioned by Susan Grace, director of the 25th Colorado College Summer Music Festival. Each of the orchestration's movements was inspired by certain architectural elements of four different buildings, each designed by a contemporary architect. As the student-comprised Summer Music Festival Orchestra plays each movement, corresponding video tours of the buildings will appear onscreen.
The third movement of the piece, "Line," owes its inspiration to Cornerstone (designed by Antoine Predock) and its many catwalks that jut across its asymmetrical open spaces. Beyond doing something as novel as playing a piece inside the space to which it pays homage, Zimmerli also wanted in this performance to acknowledge the civic responsibility inherent in raising new buildings to serve as more than mere functional space.
"People want ... to have some kind of resonance beyond being another building to go hang out in, or have classes in," he says. "I think they did that with the Cornerstone Center."
"Light," the composition's first movement, was based upon architect Tadao Ando's Pulitzer Foundation building in St. Louis, for the way light plays across it throughout the day. The second movement, "Color," pays tribute to Stephen Holl's Chapel of St. Ignatius in Seattle and the polychromatic glass that colors its interior. "Symbol," the final movement, honors Santiago Calatrava's Quadracci Pavilion, an extension of the Milwaukee Art Museum, for its sweeping shape that can be seen on signage throughout the city.
Zimmerli, who teaches at Columbia University, says that during his travels, he was struck by the innovation present in each of these buildings.
"In music, novelty is often associated with complexity of thought," he says. "But in architecture, [it's in] these new buildings that are going up with their non-straight lines and crazy curves and arcs and unusual materials.
"The best architecture [has good use] of light, use of color, use of line ... and what it winds up being in the best case is a symbol, and something that people can look to for inspiration."