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Julie Eizenberg leads the design effort at Koning Eizenberg Architecture, which she co-founded with her husband. Her innovative approach matches that of the musicians she chose for her Guest DJ set, artists who have a knack for interesting interpretations and a “pattern of juxtaposition”, from Philip Glass to Leonard Cohen. Julie’s firm is currently finishing construction on the Pico Branch Library here in Santa Monica, among other projects.
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1. Act III - Philip Glass
2. Psycho Killer - Talking Heads
3. So Long Marianne - Leonard Cohen
4. These Boots Are Made For Walkin' - Nancy Sinatra
5. Dum Maro Dum - Kronos Quartet with Asha Bosie
Travis Holcombe: Hi, I’m Travis Holcombe and I’m here with architect Julie Eizenberg. She leads the design effort at Koning Eizenberg Architecture which she co-founded with her husband in 1981. Her award-winning and innovative approach has won high praise among her contemporaries and design fans. Today we’re going to talk about songs that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Welcome to the basement Julie.
Julie Eizenberg: Thanks very much. Glad to be here.
Holcombe: So what is the first track that you’ve brought for us?
Eizenberg: Well, this starts to be my own personal history. We were driving across country to a friend’s wedding and there was an incredible rainstorm driving through Nebraska at night. We had Philip Glass on because we were just Philip Glass fanatics and it was “The Photographer”. The pace of the way the music ran and the rain moved. It was just one of those sublime experiences sort of bigger than life and a magic moment.
Song: Philip Glass -- “Act III”
Holcombe: There is sort of like a structural use of repetition in Philip Glass music. I wonder if that translates at all to what you do as an architect?
Eizenberg: Pieces of music that affect you really strongly remind you that when you make a physical experience there are other senses at work and other aspects for what makes a complete experience for people, that you're not in control of. I guess our job is really to make opportunities for people to have great experiences and draw on other aspects than just the visual environment but to build that strong base of place that makes people feel good.
Holcombe: That was Philip Glass, “Act III”. So what is the next track that you brought for us Julie?
Eizenberg: “Psycho Killer,” Talking Heads
Holcombe: Very good one.
Eizenberg: It’s chase music. Chase music particularly for us because my partner and husband, Hank Koning and I were camping in the High Sierras and we got this feeling that this guy was following us. At the same time we had been playing “Psycho Killer” in the car as the sort of like the propel music to move the car faster along to get where we wanted to go. We’d go to one campsite and he’d be there and we’d go to the next campsite and he’d be there. We were sure that guy was a psycho killer.
Song: Talking Heads -- “Psycho Killer”
Eizenberg: Meshes a music with a lyric that just gives a meaning that you don’t get from one piece of it alone. It’s beautiful poetry and it’s beautiful music but when you put the two together that juxtaposition is like, ‘Wow. How did I get to understand it that way?
He’s a great hero of ours. If any one of these groups is an inspiration for architecture it would be the Talking Heads and David Byrne. His way of taking the sort of commonplace idea of something and then setting it with a musical take that completely makes you reinterpret what you have seen. So it reframes the way you saw things and understand things. We’d love to be able to do that. We try hard.
Holcombe: Alright, so that was “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads. I’m here with guest Julie Eisenberg as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. WHat else do have for us Julie?
Eizenberg: This is driving through Italy with the kids in the back and all of us singing along. It was “So Long Marianne”. That’s another one. Maybe I like things with odd phrasing, but “So Long Marianne” has that piece where you can’t quite fit the words into the phrase of music that’s there. Then there’s that haunting voice that Leonard Cohen has.
Our kids grew up with Leonard Cohen and Talking Heads and other music. So, that trip through Italy we were in a green Alfa Romeo which was a big deal for us, you know, a fancy italian car and heading north. It was wonderful. It made all the landscape look better. It freed our minds. It was a great experience. Now we tell friends that we sing along to “So Long Marianne” as a group. They think we’re completely crazy. Leonard Cohen is traditionally thought of as music to suicide by but its not.
Song: Leonard Cohen -- “So Long Marianne”
Holcombe: Leonard Cohen with the track “So Long Marianne”. The next selection is Nancy Sinatra with “These Boots Are Made For Walking”.
Eizenberg: This one’s about my Dad. He liked sassy songs and in our household one of his favorites was “These Boots Are Made For Walking”. We got, as music, my Dad singing snippets to songs that he liked. Some of them I never know where they came from but by the time Nancy Sinatra was singing “These Boots Are Made For Walking” I was more conscious of a whole song.
I’m guessing its about the time when those small Sony radios came about. They had just been to Hong Kong and brought back one for everybody they knew. The transistor radio!That’s really a dating thing to say.
But I don’t think music is categorized by what you love best. It’s what memories it evokes. There’s so much music I really, really love and there’s so much other music that is so nurturing. This is kind of one them. It sounds odd to use the word ‘nurturing’ but it is. It brings back a time and place that you’ll never lose.
Song: Nancy Sinatra -- “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”
Holcombe: Nancy Sinatra with “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”.
What is the last selection that you have for us Julie?
Eizenberg: What was very memorable recently and I asked ‘Who the hell was that?’ was were on the plane coming out of India. We went to India for three weeks and all very regretful that we had to leave; it was Christmas time. Hank said, ‘Listen to this.’ So I put the earplugs in and it was the Kronos Quartet with Asha Bohsle. They were doing interpretations of Indian music. It was so moving and so wistful given that we were flying away rather than flying into. Now we had heard Indian music and we had been to performances while we were away, but it didn’t have the same resonance this did when you add the dimension of departure with it.
Holcombe: That particular song is sort of like the clash of two worlds when your putting Asha Bhosle with the Kronos Quartet. Do you strive to go for that kind of effect with any of your work in particular?
Eizenberg: Well, as your saying that I’m seeing a theme. Philip Glass, Talking Heads, Leonard Cohen; they all have a way of twisting the lyrics against the music or the music against the music. Yes, its a pattern of juxtaposition that I really love. I like to see multiple interpretations and see new interpretations come out of combining things that people expect to do very little on their own.
Holcombe: I want to thank our special guest DJ Julie Eizenberg. Thank you so much for coming down to the basement.
Eizenberg: Thanks for asking me. This was fun.