Hey, ALN pal and local public radio impresario Edward Lifson has a new blog! It’s called Teatro Lifson, is part of the website of his Sunday morning arts show Hello Beautiful!, and is off to a very auspicious beginning. Edward is a great arts polymath, though he’s especially passionate and knowledgeable about architecture and design. In fact, he was responsible for one of the great moments of Terry’s visit to Chicago last weekend. Following the Chris Thile-Mike Marshall mandolin concert at the Old Town School of Folk Music, we strolled with my friend David down Lincoln Avenue to indulge in what turned out to be one of the best cups of hot chocolate I ever have encountered. En route, we passed a striking storefront, but it wasn’t until we retraced our steps that I discovered it was none other than Louis Sullivan’s last building, the Krause Music Store. And the only reason that I, alone among us, knew of the significance of the Krause Music Store? Mr. Edward Lifson, natch.
Last summer Edward hosted a special live edition of HB! devoted to music and architecture, which I attended. I wrote about it only briefly here, holding back the best material as the show hadn’t aired yet. (It has now, and you can still listen.) Edward’s guest for that show, Chicago Cultural Historian Tim Samuelson, ended the episode with a story about the symmetry of the ends of two great careers, Scott Joplin’s and Louis Sullivan’s. By the end of his life, each man had outlived the fame and fortune of his earlier career and, around the same time, each pursued what would be his last projects in relative obscurity. The last building Sullivan designed was the facade of the modest Krause shop; he needed the money, if you can believe that. Joplin’s last surviving composition was the luminous “Magnetic Rag.” That evening at the Cultural Center, Tim Samuelson had brought with him a player piano reel of “Magnetic Rag” that recorded Joplin’s own performance–his last known recording of his last surviving composition. We looked at slides of Sullivan’s building while listening to Joplin play. I don’t know when else I’ve been in an audience that was simultaneously so hushed and so electrified by a recording. It was an amazing thing to see and, especially, to hear. And that’s why it was so cool to run headlong into the Krause Music Store last weekend, even without the benefit of the proper soundtrack. And that’s one of the reasons we might kind of gush when we say, Hello Teatro!