If you whistle a tune often enough to a starling, the bird will not only sing it back to you, it will improvise its response and create something new. On May 27, 1784, Mozart whistled a 17 note phrase to a starling in a Viennese shop and to his delight it spat the tune right back — but not without taking some liberties first. So he bought it and brought it home. That bird lived with him for the three most productive years of his life, during which he completed more than 60 compositions, including Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The piano concerto as we still understand it was built in those rooms. The “Jupiter” Symphony began and Figaro ended. Melodies that two centuries of humans have since whistled could have first been volleyed between a genius and his pet bird.
On July 22, 2012, Herb Vogel passed away. Herb worked his entire life for the US Postal Service, while his wife Dorothy worked for the Brooklyn Public Library. In spite of their humble backgrounds, the couple were renowned in art circles for amassing over the course of decades a deeply personal collection of over 2500 pieces of 20th C. contemporary American art, a collection so vast that it could not be housed in the National Gallery of Art. A traveling exhibition entitled Fifty Works in Fifty States was set up to share the Vogel's treasures with the American public in museums across the country, as well as online. The wonderful story of the deep love that the Vogels shared for each other and their passion for art, beauty and human creativity was told in the eponymous documentary Herb and Dorothy.
Herb & Dorothy Vogel is a documentary about a postal clerk and a librarian who amassed over 4000 works of conceptual and minimalist art on their modest income. Their only criteria: it had to be affordable, and it had to fit in their apartment.