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Curator Picks: Musical Tower

Woman playing with a musical tower
2 Dec 2015
2 min read

Assistant Curator Lotte Johnson selects her favourite work from The World of Charles and Ray Eames

In our next Curator Picks, Assistant Curator for The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Lotte Johnson, chooses one of her favourite works from the exhibition – the playful Musical Tower which you can find reaching from the main Gallery floor to the balcony in our Art Gallery.

‘Experimentation and play were both integral to Charles and Ray Eames’ practice. In the Eameses’ eyes, even the most ordinary object was potential source material; they saw endless possibilities for creativity in the world around them. Charles often noted the importance of ‘taking pleasure seriously in one’s everyday work.’ Epitomising this statement is the whimsical Musical Tower, designed by the Eameses in the 1950s. A replica Musical Tower, fabricated by Complete Fabrication Art & Design Ltd, is on display in the exhibition.

The ball plays a tinkling melody as it hits each of the slanted xylophone keys on its descent

Every ten minutes or so, this experimental gravity-powered xylophone is activated by an invigilator by dropping a small ball into the opening at the top. The ball plays a tinkling melody as it hits each of the slanted xylophone keys on its descent. The Eameses would encourage guests to play with the Musical Tower when they visited the Eames Office and it is said that new Office staff members would be set the daunting challenge of rearranging the keys to play a new tune. The melody that is played by the replica tower in the exhibition was composed by Elmer Bernstein in 1965 for an iteration of the tower installed at the Time & Life Building in New York, when elements from the Eames Office exhibition Mathematica were on view there. One of the original towers is still on display at the Eames House in California.’

New Office staff members would be set the daunting challenge of rearranging the keys to play a new tune…

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