Letters to the Arts Editor

The MIT Media Lab, designed by Maki Associates of Tokyo in association with the Boston firm of Leers Weinzapfel.
Anton Grassl at Esto
The MIT Media Lab, designed by Maki Associates of Tokyo in association with the Boston firm of Leers Weinzapfel.

Living in the present

Re: “Ever-changing, buildings’ allure alters with the ages” (Arts, March 17, Robert Campbell): I wanted to be sure to vote in favor of the Media Lab, and in favor of modern architecture, and modern design, in general. I grew up in Eureka, Calif., where there are many beautiful old Victorian houses. I like them very much, as I like the beautiful old buildings around Boston that speak of a bygone era. But while I appreciate their design and beauty, I also believe that we are not living back then, we are living right now. We should be working on our own (different) view of the world, not trying to pretend it’s still the 1800s.

Accordingly, I think the Hancock Tower is beautiful, as is the Casey Overpass in Jamaica Plain, where I live. They both reflect the sensibility of their times, just as the older buildings do. City Hall is in the same category, and while I’m not transfixed with delight when I look at it, it’s still an interesting reflection of the time in which it was built.

One thing I like about living in an old city like Boston is that there is such an interesting and varied mix of architectural styles, often standing right next to one another. If I wanted to live in a Levittown, where everything looks the same (of whatever era), I would do that. Boston is a lovely combination of styles and standards of beauty from many different times. I think it’s a big mistake to try to retreat back to some long-ago time in stylistic choices (as we see in the streetlights in Brookline Village that are designed to look like 1800s gas lamps).


Thank you for bringing up the issue of whether we should embrace our present or pretend we live long ago.

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PAT ROBERTS, Jamaica Plain

I think Robert Campbell lost an opportunity when he derided the 1927 award for the Motor Mart building. Having parked there numerous times, it has always presented many difficulties, but mainly for function. As I have driven around it, I have wondered what it would have looked like with floors filled with models of that era, perhaps even a Duesenberg, Cord, or a Packard. With the awkward turning radiuses for the ramps, I can only imagine the cursing that emanated from the driver. That building, however, has a context that is hard to envision today. Then, it was revolutionary. Its medallions were symbolic of the advent of the auto. Parking there was associated with a big event or with an important stay at one of the largest hotels around (the Statler).

I do not know the history of that garage. I must presume that, given its name, it had at least one dealership on the street level, not an unusual synergy for the times.

Mostly, we try to hide garages these days. Some will never be missed; witness the Government Center garage when someday it is torn down. Some are nondescript neighborhood reminders of the way people without garages accommodated to the auto (Danker-Donohue on Newberry Street). Campbell should reconsider the Motor Mart from its historical importance. There could be far worse solutions to the problem of parking.


JEFF KAUFMAN, Longmeadow

The Timberlake connection

I just read Meredith Goldstein’s “Justin and Me” article, and it is one of the best I’ve ever read in the Globe (g, March 15). I have the same exact connection to JT’s music, and music in general. I wholly appreciate her writing about how music is the background of our lives. I’m 22 and feel that appreciation like that is a lost art, so just know that the piece inspired me and made my day even better. Thank you for that.


Van Cliburn, American icon

Jeremy Eichler’s wonderful article reminiscing about Van Cliburn brought back memories of my own coming to America (“When a Texas pianist became ‘the American Sputnik,’ ” Arts, March 10). It was 1958 and our arrival to America coincided with Van’s victory in Moscow. I had just started piano lessons in the former Yugoslavia a few years earlier. I will never forget my father telling my mother: “Can you believe it — some American kid beat all the Russians on their home court and came to America a winner.” Of course he was not talking about sports but about Van. I still have the program from one of Van’s recitals in 1961 at Symphony Hall. Back then I was more impressed by his huge hands and his acrobatics at the piano than the music. Back then I heard them all — Janis, Gilels, Askenasy, Rubinstein, Serkin. Thank you for writing about a bygone era of great pianists.


Jocularity not welcome


If the History Channel ever decides to produce a miniseries entitled “The Koran,” would the preview to the evening’s episode in Sarah Rodman’s Critic’s Corner ever print, “It’s a boy!” when Mohammed is born, as she did with the birth of Jesus Christ in the miniseries, “The Bible” (Arts, March 17)? I think not.


Void in the Gardner collection

Thank you very much for Sebastian Smee’s excellent article highlighting the tragic loss at the Gardner 23 years ago (“Loss of heralded artworks has left a bitter, lasting impression,” Main, March 19). It is the finest piece I’ve read on the objects of this sad event. Smee’s writing is brilliantly crafted and I find it brings to life both the artists themselves and the special genius which gave us their masterful creations. What an education! Let’s hope that someday we may again see these great works.


Hopefully the crime will be solved and the paintings returned to the Gardner. I will look with fresh eyes as Smee’s words trace through my mind. Perhaps the FBI should hook up with the crime-solving software group at Harvard that was recently mentioned in the Globe. Digesting all the clues and contacts to see the crime holistically might lead to solving the case.


New music? No, thanks.

I experienced an epiphany attending the Boston Symphony on Saturday, March 16 (“A delicately constructed cello concerto debuts at BSO,” Metro, March 16, Jeremy Eichler). I may never forget the anger I felt during the cello concerto commissioned and premiered by the BSO. If I hadn’t been trapped in mid-row, I would have left the auditorium.

If contemporary music like this is so popular and highly regarded, why doesn’t the BSO schedule a two-hour concert of this music? Answer: They would lose money. Instead the work is slipped under the cover of Mozart and Saint-Saens. I am insulted that I’m forced to listen to “what’s good for me” like medicine I have to take for my health. I read the program notes (and the Boston Globe review) only to be reminded of catalogs for some contemporary art shows. At least there, one is free to move on to another room. The BSO should provide a half-hour presentation on a new piece before each concert. (And a post-concert discussion where the audience can ask questions?)

The piece itself was a half-hour. At times the noise from every imaginable percussion instrument was breathtaking. I heard and felt a ringing not unlike feedback from a mike. Many times I thought the piece had ended, but no. When it did end there was silence, not from awe but of fear that one might applaud at the wrong time. The applause was respectable, but how much was the audience congratulating themselves for having lived through it?

Only two patrons in my row applauded.

As for my epiphany? I have learned not to attend a concert where a newly commissioned piece is being performed. I honestly admit that it is my loss not to appreciate the music. The composer has had a successful career and is highly regarded by soloists and conductors all over the world. But having listened to classical music starting on 78s while standing in a playpen, I wonder how many people would appreciate it. If this music is worth playing, my suggestion is to schedule it during Pops on the Esplanade so a larger audience can experience it. How about the Fourth during the fireworks?

DAVID RIESE, Wilmington

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