Architect Fritz Haeg has applied his art in diverse and groundbreaking ways, including radical gardening. His choices include a baroque tribute to trees, a song about the sinister side of lawns, and track that suggests "a new way of thinking about the world." Fritz travels to universities and conferences around the world to discuss his work, including his edible estates and Sundown Salon.
Tom Schnabel: Hi, this is Tom Schnabel from KCRW and I'm here with architect Fritz Haeg, who's applied his art in diverse and groundbreaking ways, including radical gardening. He defies categorization in his work, so we're intrigued to hear what music he enjoys. We'll be playing excerpts of songs that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project.
Fritz Haeg: Thanks so much for having me.
TS: The first song that….you must've been ten years old when ABBA's "Voulez Vous" came out, were you struck by it then or did it come later?
FH: I was such an ABBA fan. I remember so vividly being a ten-year-old kid sitting on the floor of my suburban Minneapolis home, on the carpet with the LP cover, looking at it -- these four people in these crazy, disco outfits with this blue, metallic pyramid behind them holding on to a blue laser.
Song: ABBA’s "Voulez Vous"
FH: And the lyrics are just kind of hilarious too. They're just these jaded disco people, talking about how they go out all the time and we've seen it all before and now we're back to get some more, you know what I mean? (laughing) Something about the music evoked this world outside of my very sequestered Catholic suburban mid-western life.
TS: I'm Tom Schnabel and my guest today on KCRW's Guest DJ project is architect Fritz Haeg. So we heard some ABBA. Now we're going to hear from Phillip Glass. Tell us about "Changing Opinion."
FH: Well it's from an album, "Songs from Liquid Days." I don't know where I discovered music when I was little. I think it was at the public library checking out albums. Kids today, of course, have access to anything. But I remember just having access to what was on the stacks there at my local public library in Minneapolis, and, somehow, when I was 18 or 17, stumbled across this, and I'd never heard anything like it before. I just was immediately in love with his music.
Song: Phillip Glass’ "Changing Opinion"
FH: For me, a great song suggests, in some way, a new way of thinking about the world, or some alternate possibility. With my work, what I'm interested in is suggesting -- with very small things, like a garden or an animal home, or something like that, or a dance -- an entirely new world order, or some alternate world that you could imagine spinning off from that one little thing. And I think, in some way, all of the music that I'm interested in is similar. It's just one little song, but, I think, when I listen to it, or maybe when I first listened to it, it was evidence of some other, bigger ideas that could possibly exist. And, for me, discovering Phillip Glass was like that.
TS: Music from Phillip Glass, as chosen by Fritz Haeg, who's here with us today as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Music has a strong effect on the way we feel, how we react to it, and I'm getting that from you, too, that you hear things…you hear them the first time and they usually just hit you, and then they stay with you.
FH: Yes, and, the last artists on my list, I have everything they've ever recorded. For example, this Joni Mitchell song -- I didn't listen to the CD for, like, ten years after I bought it. But I bought it 'cause I knew I would love it someday, but I wasn't ready for it yet, because I…I love Joni Mitchell. I love everything she does. So I bought "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" when I was 20 or something, and it wasn't until like five years ago that I actually started to listen to it and enjoy it.
Song: Joni Mitchell’s "The Hissing of Summer Lawns"
FH: The reason I appreciate her music is what she has to say about the world that we live in. She does have entire albums about her emotional state that are very personal and introspective, but she also has albums that are very much about who we are as people and how we live together in a society. In this song, it's a real social commentary about the role of the woman in the suburbs, and how she's trapped in this house, and "The Hissing of the Summer Lawns" is, kind of like the sinister side of this very lovely space in front of the house, and I couldn't resist doing a song about lawns, with my front lawn garden project.
TS: I'm Tom Schnabel and I'm here in KCRW’s studio with architect, Fritz Haeg. We just heard music from Joni Mitchell.
FH: I think really great music, a great song, is a whole three dimensional universe that you kind of enter into when you're listening to it. I remember, very vividly, especially, I guess when I was younger, designing buildings -- like sitting down at a drafting board with a pencil, drawing, and having a very strong connection between the music that I was listening to and the designs that I was working on. And, in particular, when I was a lot younger, especially in architecture school was a lot of baroque, 17th century music, like we're going to hear from Henry Purcell
Song: Henry Purcell’s "Hail! Bright Cecilia: Hark Each Tree"
FH: Ode to St. Cecelia is… I think it was a commissioned piece, and St. Cecelia was the patron saint of musicians.
FH: All the songs are about music, and this one in particular is about all of these instruments coming from trees and the sounds that all of these trees are making. "Hark each tree," which I think is a really lovely thought.
TS: I'm Tom Schnabel. We're here today with architect Fritz Haeg. Our last selection of the five that you've brought is Kate Bush, "The Dreaming," from "The Dreaming," 1982. Tell us about it.
FH: I don't know. I'll be interested to see if anyone else sees any connection between Henry Purcell and Kate Bush, but I think there's something of the…the vocal rhythms in this that are just so rich and kind of operatic.
Song: Kate Bush’s "The Dreaming"
FH: I think her best music is like theatre. I think that my favorite songs -- especially of Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush -- are songs without a chorus, songs that just ramble and unfold in ways that are not terribly predictable. And it's not necessarily a catchy tune, but it's this narrative that we're drawn into. The song is about Australians mining aboriginal territory. I like songs that are about topics that you don't necessarily imagine a pop song being about -- like Australian mining practices.
TS: Kate Bush, "The Dreaming" from our guest, architect, Fritz Haeg. Well Fritz, thanks so much for joining us today on kcrw.com. It's been a pleasure talking with you.
FH: Thanks so much, I love KCRW.
TS: For a complete track listing or to find these songs online, go to KCRW.com/GuestDJProject.