Songs for Art: A Spotify Playlist

Listen to the “Songs for Art” Spotify playlist as you explore the expanded campus of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston! The playlist was created by members of the Museum community involved in the design, construction, and programming of these spaces.

The songs reflect the rich range of perspectives you’ll encounter at the MFAH, including the new Glassell School of Art; The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza; the BBVA Compass Roof Garden; and the recently restored Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden. Each song is inspired by a specific area or work of art in these new public spaces, which are free to visit.

Grab your headphones and smartphone and a map, and follow along below. You can download a PDF of the map or pick up a printed map—either at an MFAH admissions desk or from a guest services ambassador, as availability allows. Enjoy!

1. Steven Holl, principal, Steven Holl Architects
Location: The BBVA Compass Roof Garden
Song: “Ooby Dooby” | Roy Orbison

“Ooby Dooby” is a song meant for dancing on the roof. If you dance up the inclined plane of the new Glassell Building to the roof, you can overlook the whole MFAH.

2. Didi Garza, student, Glassell School of Art
Location: Interior of the Glassell School of Art
Song: “Feeling Good” | Nina Simone

This song, with its deep conviction and passion about the future, encompasses my feelings about the new Glassell School, which indeed reflects a “new dawn,” “a new day,” “a bold world,” and “freedom” to create.

3. Mike Kacal, finishing superintendent of the Glassell School of Art, McCarthy Building Companies
Location: The base of the BBVA Compass Roof Garden
Song: “The Ecstasy of Gold” from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly | Ennio Morricone

At the end of the movie “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” the characters have finally found something they have been searching for, and this music soars. The emotions expressed in this song parallel the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a complicated project like the Glassell School of Art.

4. Willard Holmes, chief operating officer, MFAH
Location: Outside the Glassell School of Art, with your back to Montrose Boulevard
Song: “Violin Phase” | Steve Reich

This song is constructed from a single musical phrase recorded several times and then played back out of sync. A musician played the same phrase over the recordings, creating a continually changing overlap. To me, this song evokes both the construction process and the rhythmic asymmetry of the Glassell School facade.

5. Deborah Nevins, president, Deborah Nevins & Associates, landscape architects of The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza
Location: The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza
Song: “You Can’t Hurry Love” | The Supremes

Like the Supremes say, you can’t hurry love. This is true for plants, too: Your patience while they grow will be rewarded.

6. Alison de Lima Greene, the Isabel Brown Wilson Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, MFAH
Location: The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza
Work of art: Cloud Column by Anish Kapoor
Song: “Happy” | Pharrell Williams

This song immediately came to mind when thinking about The Brown Foundation Inc. Plaza. In addition to housing two great sculptures from the Museum’s collection, it is also a place to open oneself up to the joy of being outdoors. 

7. Frank Stella, artist
Location: The Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden
Work of art: Decanter by Frank Stella
Song: “Sonata in A Minor, K59” | Domenico Scarlatti

One of the musicians Frank Stella has identified as inspiring the visual rhythms of his work is Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757). In Stella’s words: If you follow an edge of a given work visually and follow it through quickly, you find the sense of rhythm and movement that you get in music.

8. Joseph Havel, director, Glassell School of Art
Location: The Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden
Work of art: Exhaling Pearls by Joseph Havel
Song: “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” | The Flaming Lips

This song is a fine metaphor for the effort and ambition of making art. It relates to the new Glassell School of Art building, as its innovative design required heavy lifting by many individuals to complete it in a way that seems effortless. The song also relates to my sculpture “Exhaling Pearls” and its gesture of effortlessly lifting a sphere into the sky.

9. Kanitra Fletcher, curatorial assistant, modern and contemporary art, MFAH
Location: At the border of The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza and the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden
Song: “Sound and Color” | Alabama Shakes

The first line of this song, “A new world hangs outside the window,” compares one’s environment to an artwork. With the new plaza and reinstallation of Cullen Sculpture Garden, the MFAH also hangs a new world filled with sound and color outside our windows.

10. Javandon Vallare, security officer, MFAH
Location: Center of the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden
Song: “Earth Song” | Michael Jackson

When I’m stationed in the garden at night, I notice the leaves blowing, sirens, birds chirping, planes flying over. It’s really peaceful, like this song. The vibe is right, a great delight, appeasing sight, with ease at night, you see the light, no need to gripe, with all your might, perceive your life, living.

11. Gary Tinterow, director, MFAH
Location: The Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden
Works of art: Back I–IV by Henri Matisse
Song: “The Rite of Spring, Part 1: The Adoration of the Earth” | Igor Stavinsky

Both Matisse and Stravinsky introduced novel concepts into their art in order to reinvigorate the Western tradition, and each advanced a notion of the avant-garde that lasted nearly a century.