Save Louis Kahn’s Concert Boat!

In response to:

A Mystic Monumentality from the June 22, 2017 issue

American Wind Symphony Orchestra
Point Counterpoint II, designed by Louis Kahn and launched in 1976; undated photograph

To the Editors:

I read Martin Filler’s sweeping survey of Louis Kahn’s life and work [“A Mystic Monumentality,” NYR, June 22] with great interest. Louis Kahn has been on my mind lately—not for the striking creations that testify to his decades as “America’s master builder,” so many of which I know and love, but for his brief tenure as a shipwright.

In the mid-1960s, conductor Robert Austin Boudreau—Kahn’s friend and mine—commissioned Kahn to design a unique floating concert hall, one that would carry an orchestra up and down America’s waterways in a grand celebration of the Bicentennial. Launched in 1976, the 195-foot Point Counterpoint II has travelled America’s rivers, lakes, and intercoastal waterways; the Caribbean, Baltic, and Irish Seas; and the rivers of northern Europe. Anchoring in large cities and small towns, in busy shipping lanes and at public parks, the barge opens like a clamshell to reveal a glittering concert stage. Audiences on shore delight in the music, much of it specially composed for Maestro Boudreau and his American Wind Symphony Orchestra.

While Point Counterpoint II might lack the solidity and repose that Martin Filler so eloquently attributes to Kahn’s buildings, it is no less monumental: it sails as a powerful, living testament to American creativity and to the elemental role that culture plays in human life.

After five decades, Robert Boudreau (who just turned ninety) and his wife, Kathleen, have decided that they cannot keep running the barge. Despite their best efforts, they have not yet found a new guardian for it. Lacking an alternative, in late July, at the conclusion of the Orchestra’s 2017 tour, this remarkable, mobile cultural institution will be broken down to scrap in a Louisiana shipyard.

At a time when our national conversation is so often focused on division, we can ill afford to condemn to the scrap heap such a vibrant ambassador for our national unity, so I humbly ask that your readers join Robert and me in finding a new home for Point Counterpoint II. Please share any suggestions with Robert and Kathleen at awso@consolidated.net.

Yo-Yo Ma
Cambridge, Massachusetts