Mayday Post

this may or may not be a design blog

Watching, Hearing The Death Of Modernism

with 2 comments


While watching The Watchmen (at some point during the OMFG AWESOME slow motion fights) I noticed an inserted Philip Glass composition “Pruit-Igoe” from the 1983 art-house classic Koyaanisqatsi. I’m not sure if there is a deliberate intention of connecting the movie’s (and graphic novel’s) violence and themes of human corruption etc, etc. to Koyaanisqatsi (too many themes to count). Judging by the other musical choices (“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, “The Times They Are A-Changin” by Bob Dylan, etc), I would bet $1 there is. 

 In the film (Koyaanisqatsi that is), humans and nature are juxtaposed with buildings, and shot silently in time-lapse with no narration. The viewer is transported from “Organic” nature to “Resource” lakes and power-lines to “Slow People” moving through New York City. The sequence “Pruit-Igoe” captures bleak housing projects, including the bleakest of the bleak, Pruitt-Igoe itself (correct spelling here) which was built in St. Louis, Missouri in 1955 by Minoru Yamasaki (architect of the World Trade Center). And so we hear the Glass score: circular, churning horns and evil voices that build up to explosions and the dramatic demise of Pruit-Igoe. It was demolished in 1972, and captured in this film. Historians called this demolition the symbolic if not literal  “Death of Modernism.”

I’m always perplexed by this film, but come back to it again and again to find new things. What do you gather about Pruit-Igoe, or about the tone or meaning of the film? Don’t listen to what I think, It’s best to enjoy Koyaanisqatsi and figure it out on your own. And wouldn’t you believe I found the whole thing on the YouTube? So sit back, relax, and enjoy:

Pruit-Igoe:  fast-forward to 0:34:29


Written by Wegener

March 16, 2009 at 6:10 am

2 Responses

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  1. Not having seen Watchmen (yet), I can’t vouch for the coherence of the score. But it sounds pretty random by description alone. I’m a Glass fan but the chunky timbre of the synth of the entire K score seems so off for the direction of this film. However, the 80s connection is explicit.


    March 19, 2009 at 5:26 am

  2. I think “Pruit-Igoe” is the only track that had any place in the Watchmen, probably because it is faster and louder. It may not be any deeper than that. But you’ll have plenty of time to think about it during the movie — it runs quite long.

    Jamie Lux

    March 19, 2009 at 9:01 pm

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