What Time is it?

Photo: Jo ann Fleischhauer

Louis & Annie Friedman Clock Tower
Old Market Square
Houston, Texas

I live in the rush. Fast. Scheduled. Heart pounding. Pulse pumping. Keeping time...

I went away this summer to a timeless place. Is timeless lazy? Is fulltime crazy?

In downtown Houston, at the corner of Congress and Travis, the iconic Clock Tower’s brick columns disappear into the architecture of the cityscape. The bell tolls and I wonder…who is listening?

Exploring the concept of time and the relevance of this historical marker in our digital age, through visual manipulations of the surfaces of the clock tower, clock faces and collaboration with composers Anthony Brandt and Chapman Welch, an environment has been shaped to engage the casual and frequent visitor to Market Square.

The applied mirrored panels dematerialize the surface of the columns, making the physical structure “disappear”. The “chiming” musical compositions, each “tolling” not on the hour, but before and after, “re-materialize” the Clock Tower in Market Square.

The white spiral staircase winds the eye to the silent bell and still hands of the clock faces but reanimates the tower as a performance space for student composers from Rice University and University of Houston to integrate the bell into original compositions performed monthly at the Clock Tower.

The clock faces, inanimate during the daylight hours, transition and change as the evening light darkens. Appearing as constellations in the night sky, each of the four clock faces is made of collaged elements of calculations, historical notes, observations and photographs printed on mylar film, which visually interpret time. Backlit by a changing panel of LED lights, “Galileo’s Face” uses photographic reproductions of his 1610 observations of the “ four” moons of Jupiter. “Voyager” uses the recorded vital signs and brain waves of author Ann Druyan, who loved and worked with astrophysicist Carl Sagan to produce the “Voyager Golden Record” which was launched into space in 1977. “Black Hole” interprets Stephen Hawking’s vision of erasing time, and “Roller Coaster” visualizes a human’s personal clock dependent on the rhythms of the physical and emotional body.

The eternal question will always be what time is it? But I keep asking the question what is time? Can it be changed? Denied? Erased? Forgotten?

With my heart beating…a certain rhythm… Time.

- Jo Ann Fleischhauer 2013

Photo: Dakota Grusak

Video: Rice University

C O'Clock

Louis & Annie Friedman Clock Tower
Old Market Square
Houston, Texas

Composed by Anthony Brandt and Chapman Welch

A musical installation created in conjunction with Jo Ann Fleischhauer’s “What Time Is It?”

One of the most wonderful aspects of collaboration is that it offers artistic opportunities we would never arrive at on our own. Imagining what kind of sounds and program would help to marry Jo Fleischhauer’s visionary transformation of the clock tower with the day-to-day hustle and bustle of this historic neighborhood was an exciting creative challenge. It isn’t typical for composers to have their work performed in a public square over the course of six months, and we recognized that our music would be experienced casually by one-time visitors as well as more regularly by those who live and work in the square. As such, we tried to balance the inner consistency of the time of day with the controlled improvisation of the tolling 'bell'. Rather than tolling the hour like a traditional clock-tower, the musical installation “C O’Clock” tells the time by a progression of chords, one per hour, that rise and set like the sun. Each chord sounds for between one to three minutes, beginning slightly before the hour and ending slightly after. The cycle of chords repeats each day, so that over time, someone who frequents the square will be able to tell the time musically. On top of each chord, a computer hidden in the Clock Tower improvises using an array of ringing sounds. Each improvisation is unique and unpredictable--every hour will sound different. The sound source of both the underlying chords and ringing improvisations is Market Square itself—recorded street noise—which is filtered so drastically that it turns into pure tones. The installation is entirely automated: once set in motion, the computer runs the hourly performances on its own.

- Anthony Brandt 2013