A few evenings ago, Richard and I attended the 10th Anniversary of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles designed by the great architect, Frank Gehry who was being honored.

I will go anywhere to honor Frank Gehry but what made it even more special was that the L.A. Symphony’s Music Director, Gustavo Dudamel — fabulous, fiery, playful, brilliant, thirty-something Venezuelan was conducting and the great Cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, would be performing a Bach solo (Prelude from Cello Suite No. 3).
First, a word about Gehry. I have always loved architecture and, in 2000, I traveled to Spain to visit Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Photo: Vanity Fair

It is hard to describe the effect it had on me. This photo (above), which I Googled, doesn’t do justice to the staggering vision of the building with its waves of shining titanium rising up out of the old, brick, industrial city of Bilbao, along a river. It was the first time architecture made me cry. The shear courage and vision of Gehry’s design is breathtaking. And, by the way, it doesn’t hurt that, to get to Bilbao, we had to pass through Barcelona where many of the Spanish architect, Gaudi’s, greatest buildings are . . . this famous cathedral being but one example.

But back to Los Angeles. It was a packed house for the anniversary celebration with all of the city’s art and music lovers in attendance. The inside of Disney Hall is light wood, which gives the safe a soft, warm glow, the sides curving and rising like the hull of an old schooner and the acoustics are perfect.

I took this picture during a short break. Behind the screen you can make out the organ with grand pipes that appear to be 100 feet high. During the performance, images were projected onto the several screens that hung from the ceiling. Sometimes they had images of the models Gehry created in designing the hall. During the breaks between musical pieces, statements by Frank Gehry were projected with his voice speaking the words. Many of us wish we were taking notes because his words were so true of all great artists.

The feeling that he had gotten it all wrong; the time he was fired because the consensus was that his design wouldn’t work; the self-questioning; the mounting costs of storing all the models. His humility and honesty was very moving. I had to photograph this quote of his which was projected on a wall in the entry way. How I identify with what he says!

There was enormous excitement and anticipation in the hall as Dudamel made his entrance, took his first bow, acknowledged Gehry in the audience, turned and took his position on the conductor’s stand. A moment passed, then he lifted his arms to begin and the musicians lifted their instruments . . . poised, waiting, silence, held breaths, he’s focusing his energy, a minute goes by, nothing, he lowers his arms and the musicians lower their instruments. Waiting, we see him taking deep breaths. He must not be quite ready. More focus must be needed. He lifts his baton again and the orchestra follows suit . . . hold . . . hold . . . another minute or more, and he lowers his arms again. By now, at least three minutes have elapsed. Richard looks over at me with a quizzical, “what’s going on?” expression. I whispered to him, “just think of it as Tantric sex.”

Once again, for the 4th time, Dudamel lifts his arms, holds, waits and then, turns to the audience and bows. Of course! Duh! I glance at the program (which I should have done to begin with). It was a performance of the controversial, experimental composer John Cage’s 4’33” It was composed in 1952, “for any instrument or combination of instruments, and the score instructs the performer(s) not to play their instrument(s) during the entire 4 1/2 minutes” as Cage believed the sounds of the environment –of ‘silence’–that the listeners hear, constitutes music. (Cage was studying Zen Buddhism at the time).

I was thrilled that for the important evening’s opening number, Dudamel had chosen to have fun outside the box.

The final performance was Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3. “Organ” and for the first time for many of us, we heard the powerful organs sounds. Everyone was talking about it later in the ladies room where, by the way, I ran into Julie Andrews whom I hadn’t seen in decades. What a beautiful woman she is, inside and out.

It was a perfect, inspiring evening!

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  1. Dear Jane,

    I’ve enjoyed the way you describe your reaction to the Jonh Cage’s 4’33” of silence, especially due to tha fact that I experienced the same reaction a few years ago, at Enescu’s Festival in Bucharest. I remember that this experimental composition reminded me, by that time, of the famous “Sound of Silence”, the song which, 12 years after Cage’s 4’33’’, propelled the group Simon & Garfunkel to mainstream popularity. Do you remember this wonderful song ?

    This is the performance I like best:


    I am sorry having dared to be the first to “disturb the sound of silence”…

    Warmest regards.

  2. That is a fascinating building! I have driven by it before, but never have gotten a close look. I think you did your play there? It seems to me that you have mentioned this building before. Boy, those other buildings look amazing as well!

    • Yes, I wrote about the building (Disney Hall) in the blogs I did several years ago when I was performing a few buildings down in the Ahmanson Theatre.

  3. Hello dear Jane…long time no see….I also was traveling to a very special place up North in Brazil, Belem do Pará,and I wish you all could see how great, big and beautifull my Country and its nature is.Some years ago,I went to Spain – one of my nieces lives there – and went to see the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, among others wonder in there…Gehry, was suposed to build a Modern Museum here, in Rio de Janeiro too, but so far, for Political reasons, nothing has been decided yet.Still enjoy very much your description of all the events you go,your trully entusiasm for everything, wich take me there with you….I also follow you around, trough NYPOST,Daily Mail so, I always know what you´re doing, even if you don´t Blog….Happy to know you are ok, and anything you need from Brazil, I am here to help….have you ever had the time to hear any of the CD´s of Brazilian music that I gave you? I hope so…My dearest regards from Rio….
    Your N.1 fan in Brazil….

  4. For some odd reason, I was blocked from commenting on this website for 2 days, but I want to congratulate you on your AFI Life Achievement Award now! 🙂 You deserve it so much for your rich, uniquely versatile body of work! Oh, I’m so happy for you. 🙂

  5. Sorry to make another comment, but I just read that you will be receiving the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award June 5, 2014. I am so happy for you! What a greatly deserved honor! The list of past recipients says it all. You are being placed in the Hollywood-All-Time-Greats-Club!

  6. About Frank Gehry architecture is like the buildings are moving or changing into something else, well of course as you move around the build inside and out you get that transformation feel of movement love it. Also for the shine surface that reflect the blue sky a liquid water movement.

  7. Thanks for having “moderated” my previous non-response to YOUR blog. I was just having a really, really bad day. Just wanted to let you know how much I am looking forward to your AFI Tribute. Also, I left my abusive employment situation & received much support from my husband, in-laws and family. Onward and upward!! Looking to move into a higher-end hospitality setting, or return to being a bookseller (possibly a manager). Anyway, your an important icon/real person in my life, Jane. Always will be. I am deeply sorry for any disrespect you may have felt. 383 days sober. That’s right, I got my year token!! Each day, I feel happier, stronger and more confident. Also, just joined a Unitarian Universalist congregation to help keep me “grounded in my spirituality”. God Bless!! (I can’t wait to read your novel. After years of wanting to, I am going to be performing some of my own, original spoken word poems at an open mic night at a local coffee house. “Creativity is a verb.” ~ Patti Digh)

    • Good going, Peter. Sounds like you’re doing all the right things…one day at a time. xxx

  8. Hi Jane!
    I was wondering if you have ever listen to the Charlie Chaplin speech from the dictator. It’s so moving a cried several timed. It’s on youtube call the greatest speech ever. And it made me think about you and the kindness and cared you tried to bring to the soldiers. Let me know! And what’s your next film project besides the newsroom and this where i leaved?

    • Next project cannot yet be revealed but exciting.

  9. What a majestical evening, I imagine. And a great “date” night. I appreciate the opportunity to see these architectural wonders. And to investigate more about these sights…schema
    ” Activate relevant prior knowledge before, during, and after reading”!
    It got me thinking about Boston art/architecture and I read an article I normally would have walked on by-:)
    Regarding Boston:
    “Public art in this city is not just relentlessly conservative. It’s also dismayingly morbid. It’s all about memorializing dead men and traumatic events, and almost always in bronze.
    The men (there are only a sprinkling of women) might be mayors, sportsmen, soldiers, or statesmen. The fact that they’re almost all dead is not so much morbid as inevitable. But the great events? They really are a downer: deadly fires, famines, gun murders, genocides.” Although, I have a great appreciation for this city and the history.

    The pictures from Virginia! That was like visiting an area I’ll never see in “real” person. The similarity and contrasts were so interesting, when compared to my home town.
    I grew up and live in Hingham, Ma …no shortage of history here, including:
    “The Old Ship Church was built in 1681 in Hingham, Massachusetts in the United States. It is the oldest church in continuous ecclesiastical use in the United States. It is the only remaining 17th century Puritan meetinghouse in America”

    I also watched the first season of “Newsroom” on DVD. Never would have done that, unless you were a “guest” on the show. Of course, I thought you should have won the Emmy. Your blog expands my world. I saw pictures on Zimbio. You looked amazing…from the radiant smile right down to the black toenail polish. The quintessential movie star! The evening looked like great fun…at least from my couch.
    And, I’ve just started reading, “State of Wonder”.

    Thanks for leading the way….inspiring in ways you can’t imagine. The best is yet to be-:)

  10. Dear Jane
    I am only two weeks on your site so I just read the Frank Geary quote you posted. My husband died December 2009. The quote remindsd me of how I feel about making love for the first time with somebody new after 30 years, and that I will repeat his quote in my mind. Thanks Jane I needed to see that written to think about it being my quote also.

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