22.10.05

What's heaven like?

Steve Reich and the Ice Hotel
I caught a show on the Discovery Channel the other day about the Ice Hotel. Apparently, these folks in Sweden build a luxury hotel entirely out of ice and snow every year. Like for real. The halls and rooms and furniture are all made completely of ice. It's amazing. The year the show was made, the bar had vaulted gothic arch snow ceilings, supported by pillars of clear polished ice. The glasses were made of ice.

Each suite is designed and constructed by a different artist, so there's plenty of variety room-to-room. One of the artists startled me; she said something like: "I've always thought that heaven would be very cold. When you think about the colors of hell, they're red and orange and yellow and black, but heaven is white and blue". That struck me--we think of hell as unbearably hot, so why not think of heaven as shockingly cold? Makes sense to me.

So I was listening to a bunch of Steve Reich the other day: his early phase process music, and his later only-slightly-less-strictly-predetermined stuff, and what the ice artist said came back to me. What's the music of hell like? In my head, it's lots of wailing guitars and sloppy improvisation. Remember the devil's fiddle solo in The Devil Went Down to Georgia? Like that--wild and expressive.

Well, what's the opposite of that? Quite possibly process music. In this essay, Reich explicitly contrasts process music with improvised music. The contrast isn't unexpected: process music is strict and orderly, while improvised music can often be just the opposite.

So now I've got this picture of heaven: made of ice and snow, and full of process music. But this isn't a fetishization of the boring sort of order, as it might seem: the order in process music is often fine enough to produce wild, disorienting, and unexpected effects.

Hell, on the other hand, probably has buildings made of fire? I'm not too clear on how that might work. But I bet the music there is also awesome.
posted by Liar at 12:03