There’s no headphones lying about the offices of Warren Techentin Architecture—the team at this Silver Lake, CA-based design firm listens to music together in their studio. In this week’s “Playlist,” Warren gives us the lowdown on the type of tunes that fill their workday.
What do you listen to while you work, and how? Because we play music in our studio space, we get to enjoy it together—but it competes with the need to use telephones, have conversations about projects, and meetings with clients. So the music tends to be low, mellow, and vibe-y. The songs tend to go ambient, electronic, shoe-gaze, trance, light rock, alt country, folk, etc.
We have a retired computer dedicated to music and connected to amplified speakers. It is almost always set to “shuffle,” playing a playlist, or tuned to the radio. Personally, I am an “album guy” who prefers to listen to an album’s worth of music at a time. Albums allow bands to develop and create moods, narratives, and expand on themes… But I understand why this is not popular in an office setting. With the invention of shuffle, no one seems to listen this way anymore either. I try to keep the music representative of everyone’s interest—this can be challenging—but everyone seems to be fine with the direction we are going with the music. I erase songs from the playlists that are too extreme, boring, pop, or mindless. I tend to be allergic to reggae too, so there is not much of that going on. But overall, it is pretty democratic.
One summer, an intern was into Canto-pop and we were all exposed to a little of that for two months. Not everything is soft and wimpy, though. The harder and weirder stuff does come out, but mostly after 6:30pm as people start to leave and the phones quiet down.
The best thing about listening together is that we have conversations about the music— what we like and do not like. Who is coming to town to play and where. What the songs remind us about, etc. We actually discuss music and how it makes us feel. It is the one thing outside architecture we share and have in common.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? As an office, we tune into various radio shows for intervals throughout the week. Most mornings are spent listening to KCRW out of Santa Monica. We often listen to KSPC out of the Claremont Colleges. They have a show on Fridays devoted to music written for video games. As you can imagine, it is mostly instrumental and highly computerized, but it is pretty popular with everyone—maybe we’re all nerds. I have also been listening to a show called “Demolisten”—also on Fridays—for 15 years or so on KXLU out of Loyola Marymount. Most of the bands they play have limited stuff available commercially or only on some website like MySpace or similar. Some of the people here in the office find it a little challenging to listen to at times, but I am always amazed by the quality of what is played and why none of it is available commercially. It baffles my mind how much potentially good music is out there being played in the clubs (or at least garages) which is not being picked up commercially.
Does music influence your work? Most certainly, but it is so hard to know how. The oldest cliché in architecture is Goethe’s quote that architecture is frozen music. So architects are lead to believe there is a correlation. I respond to music deeply—and perhaps never more strongly—than when I am designing. I really get swept along with it. And I often feel like I may be going places in design that I have never gone before because of the music. But the more I think about it the harder it is to know how it directly translates into my work other than inspirationally. I used to think that the beats and repetitions, the layering of instruments on top of one another, the textures all played a substantive role in how I thought about the forms and spaces of buildings. But it seems impossible to make a direct connection. I remember being shocked to hear that the architect of one of my favorite buildings—a building that is pretty ambitious and aggressive—was literally listening to soft rock throughout the entire design process.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste? I discover new music mostly by being exposed to it at work—from music that someone brings into the office or from the radio. That is pretty much the best way to be exposed to new stuff. I hear things via word of mouth of course and the usual trusted friends. And if I am at a party and hear a song I like, I will go over to the iPod to see what song is playing. My students at USC are also pretty good sources of new music, but they seem to like the music I grew up with as much or more than the stuff coming out now.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? Wow—there is so much music out there that I think it would be impossible to attribute a song or person to any of it. It always depends on the mood you’re in to. I suppose each project in our office assumes a mood, a tenor, before it goes forward into development…seeking to make buildings unique in their experience.
A Certain Romance, Arctic Monkeys
Publisher, Blonde Redhead
When the Sun Grows on Your Tongue, Black Moth Super Rainbow
Warm Rising Sun, Radar Bros.
Rain King, Sonic Youth
Like This, Girl Talk
The High Road, Broken Bells
Cut Your Hair, Pavement
Fresh Technology, DJ Me DJ You
Við Og Við, Olof Arnalds
Indiscipline, King Crimson
Where is My Mind?, Pixies
Here Comes Everybody, Autolux
Towns Where We Live, Kevin Hume
Lovely Day, Bill Withers
Images: Warren Techentin