Friday, February 20, 2015

Day 19: Stairwell in the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna, Austria

The sound for Day 19 in the Sound Poem series at Author Amok was a recording in a stairwell in the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna, Austria.  Various voices could be heard, although given the acoustics, distinct words were not detectable. The sound of dishes clattering also could be heard, as if tea and coffee and other items were being served in or near the stairwell.  The blending of voices produced an almost ethereal quality for me, and coupled with the opulence of the building, I decided to focus my poem on the stairs, the building, and the waning days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Here it is:

Stairwell in the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Emperor Franz Joseph I commissioned the design and construction of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) in Vienna to house the imperial family’s vast collection of art and to make it accessible to the public. The museum opened in 1891. Less than 30 years later, the Austro-Hungarian Empire ceased to exist.

Listen. Can you hear their voices
from the past as they slowly ascend
these stairs, hands gracing the balustrade,
gazing in awe at the grandeur,
marble on marble, gold leaf and inlays,
a building as immense and eternal
as the Empire itself, a fitting frame
for the Emperor’s art, offered now to the people.

Look. These stairs that have borne millions,
the collection of peoples
on which the empire once hung—
these stairs, this building,
relics of an era that was in descent
even as they were new.


  1. What great attention you paid to the clip, Mike! It adds rich detail to your poem.

    1. Thanks, Laura. It's all part of my process. I tend to immerse myself in the subject at hand in order to come at it from any or all angles. I think this is where being a geographer and a poet really come together.