I’ve been recording cover versions of songs that were, in some way, influential in my musical development. Beginning with Surfer Girl from 1963, I’ve picked a different recording artist for each succeeding year, and now find myself in 1970, the year I started the B. Arch program at Cornell University, and the year that Psychedelic Shack became a hit for the Temptations.
Strangely, 1970 was also the year that Peter Eisenman’s “House II” was completed in Hardwick, Vermont. That this house shows up as the “psychedelic shack” in my music video has something to do with current research I am conducting into the question of architectural “function” and, specifically, the suggestion by some architectural theorists that one of the functions of architecture is to express the spirit of the age. Since this idea of a Zeitgeist has always struck me as rather peculiar, I took this opportunity to expose its fraudulent nature by juxtaposing two antagonistic sensibilities from the same time and the same place: on the one hand, Eisenman’s hyper-conceptual tightly-scripted architecture and, on the other hand, the rhetorically psychedelic and “anti-establishment” work from contemporary architects like Archigram (whose “Walking City” appears briefly in the video). The Temptations, of course, is not a “psychedelic” group, so their recording of Psychedelic Shack, written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, can be taken more as a commentary on late 1960s hippie culture than as an example of it. Even so, the song lyrics adequately capture the cultural ambiance:
They got a cat there shoutin’ the blues, talkin’ ’bout payin’ some dues
People walkin’ round reciting poetry, yeah
Screaming guitars and a thousand colored lights
People, I’m telling you this place is really out of sight
Contrast these lyrics with the description of House II by Eisenman (Iman Ansari, “Interview: Peter Eisenman,” The Architectural Review, April 26, 2013 accessed here):
So I achieved what I wanted to achieve, which was to lessen the difference between the built form and the model. I was always trying to say ‘built model’ as the conceptual reality of architecture. So when you see these houses and you visit them you realize that they were very didactic and very important exercises — each one had a different thematic — but they were concerned not with meaning in the social sense of the word or the cultural sense, but in the ‘architectural meaning,’ what meaning they had and what role they played in the critical culture of architecture as it evolved over time. So while the work was interested in syntax and grammar, it was interested to see what the analogical relationships were between language and architecture.
Some notes on the recording and video production:
Music arranged and produced by Jonathan Ochshorn.
Recorded with Logic Pro 9 software.
Vocals: Jonathan Ochshorn.
Real instruments: Jonathan Ochshorn (electric guitar, harmonica).
Software instruments played live on midi keyboard: Jonathan Ochshorn (drums, bass, organ, piano).
Recorded at home in Ithaca, NY, April, 2017.
Video shot by Jonathan Ochshorn with a refurbished iPod Touch in selfie mode, and edited with Final Cut Express.
Still images were mostly found on the internet and edited using Adobe Photoshop, except that one photo is of me at Cornell in 1970 (appearing on a backwards clock while the Temptations are singing “There ain’t no such thing as time”).
Video was shot and edited at home in Ithaca, NY, April, 2017.