As you may know, in his Autobiography, Frank Lloyd Wright described a steady diet of Bach and Beethoven growing up in his parents’ household, and he professed to hear strains of Beethoven in his head as he composed his own masterpieces of architectural space.
Goethe’s comment on his friend Beethoven could easily have been applied to Wright as well: “I can well understand how hard he must find it to adapt himself to the world and its ways.” Both were mavericks who changed the course of their respective arts, and one of many things we have to celebrate about the Martin House complex is how it defied architectural convention at the turn of the twentieth century.
And, in the seasonal, Dickensian tradition of Marley’s Ghost, this reminds me of the old story about the visitor to Beethoven’s mausoleum: upon entering the crypt, the inquisitive visitor was taken aback to find a dusty, disheveled Beethoven sitting at a small table, still working by candlelight—apparently unaware that he should be inanimate. But rather than producing notes with his pen, Beethoven appeared to be erasing lines from an existing score. Terrified, but still curious, the interloper asked, “my God, Herr Beethoven, what are you doing?” Beethoven slowly looked up and replied, “decomposing.”
But seriously, now that both Wright and Beethoven have shuffled off their mortal coils, it is up to us to preserve, interpret and share with the world their immortal works, of which we have a prime example here in the Martin House. Unlike the posthumous Beethoven, we are in the midst of re—composing Wright’s “domestic symphony,” note by note and line by line.