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Archimusic: A New Poïesis
“I have found a paper of mine among some others,” said Goethe to-day, “in which I call architecture petrified music.’ Really there is something in this; the tone of mind produced by architecture approaches the effect of music.”…“Since architecture is music in space, as it were a frozen music.”
– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe & Friedrich Schiller
Throughout time, architecture and music have found an intimate inspiration and direction in each other, seeking beauty, structure, and unity in the ways that the other is composed, drawn, written, heard and built. As architecture is understood as the purest of the spatial arts, so is music referred to as the purest of the temporal arts and together these two fields have developed intimate integrated relationships with each other. During heightened times of cultural advancement, architectural and musical works have integrated each other, creating some of humanities most celebrated works.
In the following paragraphs we will introduce the idea of archimusic and present a few examples of projects that can be considered to have archimusical traits. Next, we will introduce a composer and architect named Iannis Xenakis followed by his contribution to the field and the concept of archimusic.
Looking to history for examples of archimusic we can trace a line all the way back to the ancient Greek’s. Pythagoras of Samos is said to have been one of the first to discover the connection of mathematical proportions and musical harmonies and also extended this idea to the heavens calling it the Musica Universalis or Music of Music of the Spheres (James, The music of the spheres: Music, science, and the natural order of the universe). His musical and proportional theories relate to a unity of all things and he is cited with stating the well known phrases, “Man is the measure of all things: of the things that are, that they are, of the things that are not, that they are not” (Bostock) and “there is geometry in the humming of the strings; there is music in the spacing of the spheres.”(Calter).
Figure 12: The Intervals and Harmonies of the Spheres – (Stanley)
These ancient relationships between architecture and music were associational in nature, where architectural and musical works were both created by means of another modality usually mathematic or geometric, which both fields found reason and inspiration in. Examples of the mathematical and geometrical relationships common in both musical intervals and architectural form can be seen in the layout of Greek temple sites as examined by Constantinos Doxiadis in his book Architectural Space in Ancient Greece (Δοξιάδης) as well as the elemental proportions and spacing of the physical temples sites.
During the times of ancient Greece, thought to be the cornerstone of western civilization, we find evidence of architecture and music being related. This relationship might seem different at first from the ways that the arts of architecture and music might be related by today’s standard, as we will see in the programs that follow, but it is worth noting that these ancient ideas might still hold some of the most promising potential for further developments.
The forms of architecture and music found a common ground of agreement in the times of ancient Greece. This ground was that of mathematics and geometry. Mathematics and geometry was being understood and related as the most abstract of terms and the most true of languages. It tied together what would become known as the harmony of the spheres. Pythagoras was an ancient Greek from Ionia who is credited with the discovery of harmonic intervals would relate these tones the heavenly bodies in his concept of Musica Universalis, the study of cosmology (the study of the well-ordered world) and astronomy. If one were to look at the plans the tones of anvils and hammers banging in a blacksmith’s shop in the 6th BC would become related to the harmonic ratios of a string being halved or doubled and these ratios in turn related to the orbits of the heavily bodies of the cosmos and the strings of the lyre.
Figure 13: Athens Acropolis Geometric Study – Doxiadis
Zooming in from cosmos and up of string of the lyre we turn to the layouts of the ancient Greek temple sites. These were layered out with similar ratios and proportions (ratios of ratios) and in systems of polar coordinates, interesting to note because of the relationship to musical signals and the contemporary ways we visualize them as well as the idea that put sit observe in the middle as a reference to all things. The temple site of the Acropolis in Athens as well as other sites was studied in great detail by Constantinos Doxiadis in his book Architectural space in Ancient Greece. The notion of perspective and the proportions of the individual temples of these ancient sites conform to the same rules, what is true for the very big is also true for the small. The facades and plans of these ancient monuments are designed with similar ratios; proportions and their relationships to harmonic proportions have also been studied and documented.
During the Renaissance, works constructed and composed began to evolve these associational integrations into translational integrations, taking a piece of music or a work of architecture and translating it into the other by interpreting drawings as scores or harmonic ratios as building proportions. Perhaps the most well known example from the renaissance is the Il Duomo Firenze or Santa Maria del Flores cathedral, whose lantern atop the cupola designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, was analyzed for its physical proportions and translated into the interval and temporal structure for Guillaume Dufay’s composition Nuper Rosarum Flores. This piece was composed for the consecration of the Florence cathedral’s dome completion.
Figure 14: Il Duomo di Firenze by Brunelleschi (1436) | Nuper Rosarum Flores Structure by Dufay (1436)
The next time of heightened development is considered to be the renaissance. Though some 1500 years later see sees some beautiful examples of architecture and music relationship continuing to develop. During this time two significant works stand out, The dome of the Santa Maria del Flores Cathedral in Florence Italy by Filippo Brunelleschi and the Villa Rotunda in the city of Vicenza Italy Andrea Palladio.
The Villa Rotonda or Villa Capra as it is sometimes called was designed by the famous Italian artist Andrea Palladio and is considered to be on of the most beautiful pieces of Italian renaissance architecture. The facade and plan of the Villa have been thought to be based on similar proportions as the ancient temples of Greece by means of the Roman contemporary times of which Palladio was a member. This includes studies that it was based on the Golden Section and ratio (1:1.618) thought to be sacred for its common trait being found common through natural and natural process. The Pantheon in Rome rebuilt by the roman emperor Hadrian and designed by Apollodorus of Damascus was also thought to serve as inspiration to Palladio as well as the famous ancient site of Hadrian’s Villa, which was well known to Palladio and common through his writings. It is important to note that the argument of whether the facade design of the Villa Rotonda was intentionally based on the golden section as Rudolf Whittkower’s promotes in his The Architecture of Humanism is argued against in the paper Harmon Proportions and Palladio Quattro Libri (Howard) By Debra Howard and Malcom Longair. To be fair Whittkower does point out the problem with Harmonic Proportions in chapter four.
Figure 15:Il Villa Rotunda – Andrea Palladio (1567)
Another famous work during the renaissance was the dome of the Santa Maria del Flores Cathedral in Florence Italy by Filippo Brunelleschi and its connection to a musical work called Nuper Flores Buy Guillaume Dufy. Here we see an interesting advancement to the relationship between architecture and music. As the prior examples have outlined the relationship between architecture and music was principally associated in nature, find the common fertile ground of mathematics and geometry. In the Florence Cathedral example we see a different kind of relationship develop. The Florence cathedral sat for decades without a dome due to the problem that there was no one that could solve the engineering problem to build a done of that size (nearly 150 feet across). In 1418 the church decided to hold a competition to see if there was someone who could complete the fast. Filippo Brunelleschi, a goldsmith had convinced the judges that he could accomplish the great feat and indeed he succeeded. The church commissioned Guillaume Dufay to write a piece for the consecration of the dome. Dufy decided to take Brunelleschi’s drawings and compose the piece based on the proportions of the dome. This work is known as Nuper Rosarum Flores and is an interesting relationship based as a temporal reading of the dome’s spatial proportions.
As we have seen here, the past was a fruitful time for the developments of architecture and music. Often considered to be one of the first works, which related the fields of architecture and music, Nuper Rosarum Flores by Guillaume Dufay dome of the Santa Maria del Flores Cathedral by Filippo Brunelleschi and the accompanying musical work y is considered to be the we can see that the ancient periods of greek and roman architecture have been two times where the territory between these two arts. The relationships of the most ancient times can be understood as more of an associational relationship finding common ground in the field of mathematics and geometry while the examples found in the Renaissance has seen this associational relationship become more translational in nature. Whereby taking a piece of architecture and writing a piece of music based on some part of component of it. These ancient historic relationships developed a field of knowledge that will be taken forward into more recent and contemporary relationships between architecture and music and have proved to be a fruitful ground of interest and investigation for some of histories more treasured works found between the balance of our world’s most ancient and pure arts, architecture and music.
As we have seen in the past section architecture and music have shared a fruitful past dating back to the times of ancient Greece, but how has architecture and music been related to more recent times? Has it found to occur through the associational modes of mathematics and geometry like the days of old or has it been able to connect in different ways? In the following paragraphs we will take a look at the more recent developments the between the two fields of architecture and music. We will proceed, like we did in the last section looking at two more areas of heightened cultural times, that of the modern and the present contemporary period. We will also introduce a few projects from these two periods and illustrate their significant contributions.
During the modern period of the mid 20th century these translational methods evolved to become transformational integrations by using methods and practices found in one modality, and them into its own generation. Xenakis was a 20th century composer and architect who developed a number of very influential projects that began to fuse the practices of architecture and music in transformational ways. These projects would be some of the first examples of immersive installations and what other call media art or electronic art. The Philips Pavilion (1958), the Diatope (1978) and the audio/visual spectacles known as the Polytopes (1967-1978) by the Greek architect and composer Iannis Xenakis represents some of the most important examples of this transformational integration.
Figure 16: Iannis Xenakis with the UPIC
The Philips Pavilion was a pavilion designed by Le Corbusier and Iannis Xenakis for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. The Dutch Philips Company commissioned the pavilion to showcase the technological innovation of the company. The design of the pavilion was influenced by Xenakis’ musical composition Metastaseis (1954). Edgar Varèse’s Poème électronique (1958) was spatialized throughout the 188 loudspeakers stochastically located on the inside of the pavilion. Xenakis also composed a musique concrète piece Concrete PH (1958) that was played as the audience entered and exited the space.
Figure 17: Philips Pavilion – Le Corbusier & Iannis Xenakis (1958)
The Polytopes (Polytope de Montreal (1967), Polytope Persepolis (1971), Polytope de Cluny (1972-74), Polytope Mycenae (1978)) from the Greek terms “poly” meaning “many” and “topos” meaning “place” (Many places), was a series of audio, video and spatial “spectacles” that used sound, light, color and architecture during live performances. The Polytopes may be considered a summa of Xenakis interests and skills, because his formation and experiences made him a prolific composer in the realm of music and in architecture. The Diatope was located in a pavilion outside the recently inaugurated Centre Pompidou in Paris, Xenakis replaced the floor with glass and used 1600 flashbulbs and four lasers guided by four hundred adjustable mirrors to develop an immersive architectural environment.
Xenakis also designed the UPIC (Unité Polyagogique Informatique CEMAMu (CCMIX)) in 1977, one of the earliest computational composition tools designed to turn hand drawings into sounds. The UPIC represents the integration of the computational model into these translational and transformational methods and was used it to compose La Legende d’Eer with the Diatope and Mycenae Alpha with the Polytope Mycenae. Since the UPIC, computational models have become commonplace in both the fields of architecture and music. The computational methods of parametric and BIM (Building Information Model) have advanced the design and development process of digital architecture and have contributed to addressing quantitative questions of economy, structural integrity and workflow.
Figure 18: Composition of Mycenae Alpha for the UPIC
The modern period that we will be focused on here is the 20th century. Though it can be said that modernism can be dated earlier than this, it is in the 20th century where the late part of the second industrial revolution and what became known as the electrification made it into the arts, but before the digital and informational revolutions that would follow. During this time the western world would see the relationship of music evolve into the electronic age, where magnetized tape and loudspeakers were introduced and became viable options for the musicians of the 1950’s. Architecture on the other hand would not see much of an improvement to the design tool process. The revolution would be mostly focused on developments to the fabrication process and material standardization related to ideas of the economies of scale and industrialization. There would however be an architect/composer named Iannis Xenakis that would see this potential and begin to experiment and develop it.
While working for the famous modernist architect Le Corbusier’s Xenakis was in charge of engineering tasks and design process. One of these project was the Convent of La Tourette near Lyon France and the problem was how to design an interesting glass facade having only certain sized glass panels due primary to the previously mentioned material standardization. Xenakis was also a composer and so he would go about designing the facade with the idea of rhythm in mind and convert what might’ve been a very basic, repetitive and monotonous facade into a “pan de verre ondulatoire” or undulating glass panels. Casting a visual rhythmic composition of shadows and light from the glass and mullions this facade was a musical score translated into architectonic space. It just so happened that a similar approach was used at the Palace Assembly Secretariat at Chandigarh that Xenakis also was part of.
Figure 19: Convent la Tourette – Le Corbusier & Iannis Xenakis (1958-60)
Another example and perhaps the best example in the history of the relationship between architecture and music is the Philips Pavilion (Poème électronique) built at the 1958 Worlds fair in Brussels. Built for the Dutch Phillips Corporation to showcase their electrical products they commissioned Le Corbusier to design the pavilion. Xenakis who was eventually given shared credit (and event that was known as the Xenakis Incident) for the creation was in charge of the design and using his knowledge of engineering, architecture and music fused them into what I regard as one of the most influential pieces of archimusic. The initial design of the pavilion was an architectonic transformation of the glissandi similar to the one found in bars 309-314 of his musical composition Metastaseis. Xenakis also composed his one piece of music Concrete PH to be played as the visitors entered and existed the pavilion, though the main musical composition was the piece Poème électronique commissioned by Edgard Varese.
The inside of the space was a sound and light show using video projection of a Le Corbusier montage depicting the arc of human civilization and colored lights to provide bursts of color. Edgard Varese’s piece was spatialized by 144 loudspeakers that were dispersed scholastically across the inside of the hyperbolic-parabolic structure that was designed by Xenakis. A whole chapter and more could be devoted to this pavilion and indeed Marc Tribs has done so in his book Space Calculated in Seconds (Marc Treib) though he concentrates primary on Le Corbusier and Edgard Varese role. I could and intend to concentrate on this project at a later time but this short description will have to suffice at this time.
Computational synthesis methods and physical modeling have also become a common practice in the field of electronic and computer music, creating novel sound forms able to be designed at the micro-scale. More recently, contemporary works that involve this trans-disciplinary interest have continued to be developed, however, these contemporary examples have stopped utilizing transformational methods and have instead become translations.
In the more recent contemporary times of the late 20th century and the early 21st century we see the relationship between architecture and music continue to be of interest and regard. One of the projects is the Stretto House by Steven Holl in Dallas Texas. The design of the Stretto House was inspired by a piece of music by Bela Bartok called Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste written in 1936. The musical work is composed of 4 parts and so the house mirrors this 4-part movement and uses rectilinear brick walls to divide the architectonic work and connecting it with flowing metal roofs that carry the voice of the strings. The most interesting part is that the work reverses itself at the end of the piece and collapses down ending with the original tonality. This too is found in the Stretto House at a final room using all the materials and of similar scaled down proportions.
Figure 20: Stretto House – Steven Holl (1991)
Figure 21: Graphic Analysis for Music for Strings Percussion and Celesta (Bartok) – Solomon
The associational relationships we found in the ancient examples have become mainly translational in nature throughout the modern and contemporary times. Taking a piece of music and translating it into a piece of architecture as we saw with the Stretto House. This process is common and there are many similar examples such as Daniel Libeskind and Wolf Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au. The Jewish Berlin Museum by Daniel Libeskind was partially inspired by Arnold Schoenberg’s opera “Moses und Aron” whose last act Schoenberg never finished (Clements). Libeskind created “Voids” as the spaces empty creating the hollow and unknown sensibility.
Figure 22:The Jewish Berlin Museum – Daniel Libeskind (2001)
The JS Bach Chamber Music Hall by Zaha Hadid is and Figure 23: JS Bach Chamber Music Hall – Zaha Hadid (2009)
The Pavilion 21 MINI Opera Space by Coop Himmelb(l)au is perhaps one of the best examples of contemporary archimusical translation using computational means that are in the direction of this research. Spectrums Jimi Hendrix and Mozart. As a starting point towards the abstraction of music into spatial form, a sequence from the song “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix and a passage from “Don Giovanni” by Mozart were transcribed. Through the analysis of frequency sections from these pieces of music and through the combination with the computer generated 3D model, the sequences are translated into pyramidal “spike constructions” by means of parametric “scripting”. (Partner)
Wolf Prix continues in an interview published in Dezeen stating “The new digital design methods are highly appropriate to implement in a practical way the idea of surface enlargement designed as pyramid-shaped aluminum structures. Those have been generated parametrically through the overlay of sound frequencies from Jimi Hendrix’ song”…’Scuse me while I kiss the sky…” and Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni”. These shapes act either as sound reflectors or as sound reducers.” (Prix)
Figure 24: Pavilion 21 MINI Opera Space – Coop Himmelb(l)au (2008-10)
As we look at The Philips Pavilion through 40, 50 and in some cases 60 years afterward many of such examples we see this method of translation turn to one of transformation, whereby a piece of music which came as a product of drawing (architecturally) turns into a building for the display and performance of another piece of music, what Marcos Novak might call the “flow and poetics of dataWorlds”.
Figure 25: Liquid Architectures – Marcos Novak (1989)
In conclusion, as the digital revolution of the latter part of the 20th century became more pervasive and the information age associated with computation of which we are now a part become ubiquitous, we have seen little of what this relationship can fully become.