Acoustics Meet Art in the Allen

Jake Frankenfield

Wandering among fine art and listening to Oberlin’s classical guitarists, visitors at the Allen Memorial Art Museum enjoyed a space where visual and sonic art converged Thursday evening. The museum was transformed from gallery to concert hall as two of its more expansive spaces — dedicated to mid 20th-century American Art and European Art from before 1825 — had rows of seats placed in the middle of them. The guitarists were seated in between two sculptures in either room; they were clearly the focal point of the event.

The guitarists — double-degree junior Rebecca Klein, Conservatory first-year Collin Sterne, Conservatory senior Stephen Fazio, double-degree sophomore Mohit Dubey, Conservatory sophomore Brian King and Conservatory senior Lenny Ranallo — each played a 20-minute set. Their rigorous practice and tireless work showed in their impressive performance.

The setting was serene, and with art surrounding the audience and fine music playing, the Allen transformed into a space to wander and ruminate. Or at least that was the expectation — that the guitarists would be there skillfully playing to an appreciative audience to set the mood and provide a backdrop against which one could contemplate art.

The event was by no means overly rigid or formal. Attendees freely moved around, but the event was primarily a concert, and the musicians were given the most attention that evening. It was less of a fusion of music and art and more of a concert in a museum.

While the guitarists’ ability to perform works over a vast span of time in different styles and with different sensibilities was certainly a feat, they ignored any kind of artistic consistency with regard to context. Pieces played by the guitarists were not specific to the time or the place reflected by the venue’s artistic selections, which was rather incompatible.

However, the effect was negligible. Walking through the museum, classical guitar provided an excellent backdrop against which to more fully appreciate the art in Allen. Sitting on the gallery benches within beautiful and expansive spaces also provided a backdrop against which to more fully appreciate the incredible musicians at the Conservatory, something we too often forget.