Sunday, 25 July 2010

Sagrada Familia

When completed, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona will be the tallest church building in the world and will have the tallest spire of any church in the world.
It will, however, also be a metre shorter than Montjuic, a nearby hill, as the architect, Antoni Gaudi, was determined that his work should not surpass that of God.
Gaudi was not the first designer commissioned to work on the Sagrada Familia but few projects and architects are more closely associated than Gaudi and his ambitious masterpiece.
Initially, Francesc del Villar was appointed to oversee the construction of the church in 1882 but he resigned after a year due to disagreements with the backers and the commission was passed on to Gaudi in 1883.
del Villar’s was due to be a rather simple neo-Gothic design and Gaudi originally intended to see the project through using an outline very similar to del Villar’s.
By 1889 the crypt was completed and construction on the main body of the building was due to begin. However, just as the next stage of the project was to start the church received a huge donation that prompted Gaudi to have another look at the design of the church.
He discarded the neo-Gothic outline in favour of a monumental structure that would incorporate Modernist elements and be loaded with symbolism.
Gaudi intended his new church to be nothing less than a catechistic explanation of the teaching of the Gospels and the Catholic Church.
He realised that the ambition of the new project put it’s completion beyond his own lifetime and worked on other buildings and commissions alongside the Sagrada Familia. However, in 1914 Gaudi decided to concentrate all his energies on his church and he completed no other major works after this point.
By 1926 Gaudi was living in a room next to his workshop and was devoting all of his time to the Sagrada Familia. He cared little for his appearance and carried little money except for what he needed to buy food.
On July 7th of that year Gaudi was hit by tram in Barcelona. Due to his dishevelled appearance and the lack of money about him he was dismissed as a vagrant and cab drivers refused to take him to hospital. Eventually he made it to a pauper’s hospital where he was unrecognised until his concerned friends manage to track him down the next day.
They arranged for him to be transferred to a better hospital but Gaudi refused saying ‘I belong here among the poor.’
Antoni Gaudi died on the 10th of July 1926 and is buried in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia.
Work continued on the church using the detailed plans that Gaudi had left behind.
In 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, anarchists destroyed Gaudi’s workshop which contained all his plans and models for the Sagrada Familia.
The church is now being completed based on reconstructed versions of Gaudi’s plans and modern adaptations.
The Sagrada Familia is due to be consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI on November 7th 2010.
Construction is due to be completed by 2026.
When challenged by critics who complained about the proposed length of the construction of the church Gaudi replied simply:

‘My client is not in a hurry...’

Sunday, 18 July 2010


Georg Buchner was a German writer who died in 1837 leaving his most famous work, ‘Woyzeck’, incomplete and in a largely fragmentary state.
It is the story of a soldier who is dehumanised by society and kills a widow he has been living with.
He then takes the knife that he committed the murder with to a lake to clean the blood off.
Buchner’s tale ends here but most completed versions have Woyzeck drowning in the lake while attempting to clean the knife.
Despite, or perhaps because of, it’s unfinished nature ‘Woyzeck’ has proved very popular as a piece for adaptation.
Versions have included a production by the Splendid Theatre where the scenes are performed in the order they were found among Buchner’s papers rather than chronologically, a puppet theatre version ‘Woyzeck on the Highveldt’ from the Handspring Puppet Company and a modern version ‘Re: Woyzeck’ by Jeremy Gable which features Georg Buchner as a character in his own play.
‘Woyzeck’ has also proved inspirational to musicians as well.
Nick Cave has provided music for a production in Australia in 2009 and Tom Waits wrote a musical version of the story with Robert Wilson with the songs appearing on the ‘Blood Money’ album that Waits released in 2002.
Arguably the best known adaptation is the Werner Herzog feature film released in 1979 and starring Klaus Kinski in the title role.
Herzog began production just five days after completing work on ‘Nosferatu the Vampyre’ and retained the same crew and lead actor in Kinski, all exhausted by the previous project.
Filming only took 18 days and the film was edited together in another 4 days.
Herzog’s ‘Woyzeck’ was nominated for the Palme d’Or in Cannes in 1979 and Eva Mattes won the award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Marie, Woyzeck’s lover and eventual victim.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

"The Spaghetti Incident?"

"The Spaghetti Incident?" is an album of cover versions released by Guns ‘N Roses in 1993.
The album had 12 tracks listed, covering songs by the likes of The Stooges, The New York Dolls, The Damned and T. Rex, but actually featured 13 tracks.
At the end of track 12, a cover of the Fear song ‘ I Don’t Care About You’, there is a period of silence and then a hidden song begins.
The song is ‘Look At Your Game, Girl’ and was originally written and performed by Charles Manson. It first appeared on the 1970 album ‘Lie: The Love and Terror Cult.’
At this point Manson was on trial for his involvement in a series of murders undertaken at his direction by his ‘Family’ of followers. The proceeds of the album were to go towards funding his legal fees.
Eventually Manson would be found guilty of Murder and Conspiracy and sentenced to death.
The death sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.
Fearful of media outrage at the songs inclusion, the members of Guns ‘N Roses pleaded with Axl Rose, the band’s lead singer, not to put it on the album but Rose was insistent.
Tellingly, no other members of Guns ‘N Roses appear on the track. It features Rose on vocals accompanied by Carlos Booey on guitar.
Following his conviction all the proceeds from Manson’s recordings go to the families of his victims and funds for victims of violent crime. Under California state law convicted criminals are prohibited from collecting money or royalties for their work.
Other artists have covered songs from ‘Lie: The Love and Terror Cult’ including GG Allin, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and, almost inevitably, Marilyn Manson.
The most popular song to cover is ‘Cease To Exist’ which has been recorded by Redd Kross, The Lemonheads and the Beach Boys.
Manson had lived and recorded with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys for a while in 1968 and a version of ‘Cease To Exist’ re-titled ‘Never Learn Not To Love’ appeared on the B-side of the 1968 Beach Boys single ‘Bluebirds Over The Mountain.’ This version was credited to Wilson and Manson. The Beach Boys version is significant for a major change in the lyrics where Manson’s line ‘Cease to exist’ becomes ‘Cease to resist’ and refers to the acceptance of love, radically altering the meaning of the song.
By the time ‘Never Learn Not To Love’ appeared on the Beach Boys 1969 album ‘20/20' Manson had been ordered to move out of Wilson’s home by Wilson’s manager and had relocated his ‘Family’ to a ranch in the desert and had began to plan his murderous scheme.
On the album the song is credited entirely to Dennis Wilson...

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Stari Most

Suleiman I, His Imperial Majesty Grand Sultan, Commander of the Faithful and Successor of the Prophet of the Lord of the Universe was the tenth Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
He reigned from 1520 to 1566 and is better known simply as Suleiman the Magnificent.
In 1556 he commissioned a local architect, Hajrudin, to build a bridge in the town of Mostar in Bosnia to span the river Neretva.
Hajruddin accepted the commission and proposed to create a dazzling structure using locally quarried stone and an unorthodox mortar of horsehair and eggwhite.
Suleiman accepted this but warned Hajrudin that if the bridge collapsed he would be executed.
Hajrudin pressed on with his project but reportedly made arrangements for his funeral as the bridge approached completion.
Once the bridge was completed Hajruddin lost all faith in his creation.
The night before the scaffolding was to be removed and the Sultan was due to arrive to inspect the bridge Hajrudin fled and was never heard of again.
The bridge stood for almost five hundred years.
Despite the concerns of the Sultan, and the fears of Hajrudin, the Stari Most never collapsed under its own weight or subsided over time.
Instead mortar fire in 1993 during the Bosnian War did what time and use could never accomplish and brought the Stari Most down.
After the war plans were made to reconstruct the bridge.
The Stari Most was rebuilt to the same specifications and dimensions that Hajrudin designed.
A combination of locally quarried stone and material recovered from the river below was used in its construction.
The engineers refused to reveal what was used for mortar...