MEDIEVAL AMERICA: The Playlist / by Brianna Nofil

Fact: Hearst was an early investor in Beats™ by Dre.

Fact: Hearst was an early investor in Beats™ by Dre.

Reading about medieval buildings dragged to the United States can be exhausting. Who can keep all of these Clairvaux's straight and how do customs taxes work anyway and also what music should I listen to while I ponder both of these things? 

I am here with a solution to that last part.


1. Detroit Rock City - KISS
We are going to not make a million rock puns because, lowest common denominator humor, let's be real. But this song is a helpful reminder that a medieval building, the chapel from the Chateau de Herbeviller, ended up at the Detroit Institute of Art.

2. Fire Burning - Sean Kingston
Santa Maria de Ovila, Hearst's second monastery purchase, sat in Golden Gate Park for several decades because no one could figure out what to do with it. During that time, it caught fire five times, damaging many of the stones. Arson was suspected, but never proven.

3. The Ambassador - The Hold Steady
This song is about a drugged-out young woman who is pretty much living at a nightclub called The Ambassador. But do you know who lived at a very fancy Los Angeles hotel called The Ambassador? Our boy WRH! In the late 1920s and early 1930s, virtually all of WRH's correspondences come from this hotel residence.

4. Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect - Architecture in Helskinki
A musical tribute to the many very good architects Hearst drove to insanity during their tenure, especially the GOAT Julia Morgan <3

5. Man from Milwaukee - Hanson
Milwaukee also acquired some medieval buildings! The St. Joan of Arc Chapel was sold to Gertrude Gavin Hill (I guess not a man and also not exactly from Milwaukee) in 1927 and was donated (by Marc Rojtman, a man) to Marquette University (also not a man, but IS in Milwaukee) in 1964.

6. Tubthumping - Chumbawumba
A song about refusing to take no for an answer when Spanish authorities say "wait, no, that's against the law, stop dismantling that."

7. Don't Like.1 - Kanye West, et al.
Wow there were SO MANY things WRH did not like, including but not limited to: the art of El Greco, his bear pits (too small), the incinerator in his home (too loud, too flammable), his terrible art dealer Permain (literally the most useless man in the history of men, according to WRH's letters), etc etc. Also note the use of the word FRAUD in the first verse, an obvious reference to the frustrating world of artistic fakes and forgeries.

8. Walking on Broken Glass - Annie Lennox
Among the things WRH does NOT LIKE is art breaking in transit. How hard is it to ship stained glass panels across the ocean??? Please see Jake’s forthcoming good and thoughtful blog post re: broken stuff (including but not limited to: glass.)

9. Ain't Too Proud to Beg - The Temptations
There is a lot of groveling in the greater Medieval America project. Here’s a typical letter from Julia Morgan (the architect) to Arthur Byne (the dealer) about how much Hearst needs more medieval art: 

“He is very anxious to get a cloister, a big well—mantles like illustrated in the magazine you sent once—an important doorway—a mallets railing—the bigger, more architectural things, we need just now. You must wonder what we do with it all!” (Hahahaha so light hearted while also being deadly serious.)

We also see Byne beg Hearst for timely payments, Morgan beg Hearst not to be a monster to his dealers, everyone involved beg the Spanish authorities to keep quiet, etc etc.

10. Gimme More - Britney Spears
This song is obviously about early 20th century U.S. art collecting.

11. Outrageous - Britney Spears
See above.

12. The Dealer - Stevie Nicks
A tribute to the people who made it possible for rich American lunatics to procure things there is no reason they should’ve been able to procure—pressing on through revolution, angry priests, the on-set of sugar beet season, flooding, labor shortages, exciting new tariffs, etc. Hearst’s dealer Arthur Byne wrote of the exportation of Santa Maria de Ovila, "No one will ever know the difficulties and consequent anxiety I have passed through with this project.” (A thing I have said word for word about my dissertation.)

13. Mary Ann - Ray Charles
Marianne was Hearst’s elephant who lived at San Simeon, along with a host of other creatures including chimpanzees, bears, seals, etc. A typical Marianne-related inquiry to Hearst looked like this: "The elephant is getting far to big for her house. The house is too small and not strong enough. She is acquiring a bad habit of breaking thru..” followed by the related note, “How about the moving of the giraffes to the hill top?” Y’know, typical, relatable problems

14. Streets of Philadelphia - Bruce Springsteen
Philadelphia: also has medieval buildings! The Philadelphia Museum of Art got the deal of the century from the George Grey Barnard estate and scooped up a bunch of the pieces acquired after he sold the Cloisters to the Met.

15. Material Girl - bitch, it's Madonna.
A song about material culture and the history of objects and idk maybe reuse studies, who can say.

16. Rich as Fuck - Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz
The song that will play in the trailer if I ever make a genre-bending, very anachronistic film about American robber barons.

17. Bitch Better Have My Money - Rihanna
Of all the songs on this list, I would argue that none more thoroughly capture the spirit of the WRH archive than this masterpiece. WRH does not pay anybody on time, ever, and most correspondences with dealers reflect their mounting frustrations, their threats to stop working with him. Byne writes to Julia Morgan in a particularly low moment:

“To tell the plain truth, Miss Morgan, I cannot do business with Mr. Hearst. Since my first disastrous dealings with him I have found out a great deal from him from dealers in Paris. He makes a business (and incidentally considerable gain) of holding people off for years and then settling on his own terms."

As per usual, Morgan smooths things over and they are back to doing business in no time--after all, it was hard for a dealer to fully abandon a client as wealthy and art-hungry as Hearst, even if they were a massive flake.

18. I'm Stone in Love With You - The Stylistics
This will be show-stopping ballad that Hearst sings to a pile of rocks in the Broadway adaptation of this project.

Thank YOU stone much for listening to this playlist.