Instrumentation, similar to notation, is a term commonly found in the musical vocabulary. In the context of an architectural conversation, instrumentation is concerned with the spatial, structural, material or architectonic relationships to performance. The subject of instrumentation as a method of categorization is a bit more involved than the previous idea of notation, and the above-mentioned definition is used only as a starting point. It is necessary to provide a more detailed explanation of this category, and in doing so, it will be helpful to refer to ideas found in texts by Jim Lutz and Marcos Novak. In Jim Lutz text, three ways to categorize instrumentation are presented: architecture as forms & spaces, materials & finishes, and structure & mechanics, while Marcos Novak describes another important distinction between the expressive and scientific instruments.
Instrumentation and Architecture
Instrumentation and architecture is concerned with the spatial, structural, material, and architectonic relationships of expression, performance, and scientific investigation. These categories are wide spreading and explained with examples in the next section. First, let’s discuss instrumentation as a concept and how it can be applied to architectural thinking and making. The discussed integrations (association, translation, and transformation) are found within the topic of instrumentation just as they are found in notation. The notation of a work is representative of that which is to be instrumented and vice versa, that which is instrumented will normally have some notational representation.
The concept of instrumentation commonly used in the musical domain refers to the arrangement of certain music parts to certain musical instruments, where the composer will assign certain musical parts to be played by specific instruments. For example, if you have a duet for cello and piano and each instrument were to play the opposite part, the piece would take on very different tonality and expression and thus have a different instrumentation. This idea of instrumentation can be applied to the architectural discipline as well. Continuing with the same example, if a building were made of concrete and glass and we were to reverse these materials, resulting in the concrete parts now being composed of glass, while the glass portions are now made of concrete – the building would take on a very different character. These sorts of instrumental experiments can act as variable options to tune architecture in order that each piece is playing its correct part and in the right proportion, just as in musical composition.
Instrumentation and Orchestration
Another essential commonality between architecture and music is the relationship of instrumentation to orchestration. Orchestration in the musical domain is a well-understood term and is defined as the “arrangement or direction of a score to produce a desired effect” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). While both instrumentation and orchestration can be thought of as the act of arrangement, it is interesting to note the difference that is explained in a chapter on orchestration and instrumentation in An Overview of Score and Performance in Electroacoustic Music (Pasoulas). “To a large extent, the two words Instrumentation and Orchestration are synonymous. There is a shade of difference, however. Properly speaking, Instrumentation is the personal knowledge of each instrument considered individually, that is to say, of all that we can reasonably ask of it and of all the effects that we can obtain from it. Orchestration is the art of grouping them, playing with them, obtaining timbres of infinite variety from their inexhaustible combinations, and mixing them with one another as a painter mixes the colors of his palette…Instrumentation is a science; Orchestration is an art…The orchestration of a piece of music is like the painting of a picture; the combination of the instruments is like the mixing of colors according to the tint we wish to obtain. Moreover, there is also light and shadow in instrumentation” (Lavignac).
This extends into what Xenakis calls a general morphology, of which we will discuss in the chapter about Xenakis’ archimusical processes. The act of instrumentation or orchestration there is a relationship between the science and art of arranging and organizing a composition whether it is music or architecture. The more fluid and integral the integration is both scientifically and artistically, the more promise the work has to be influential and push the investigation forward; and indeed, as we will see throughout this research, the most important and influential examples are ones that have set out and accomplished fluid integration.
Instrument as Architecture: Architecture as Instrument
It is important to illustrate a particular difference between methods that have integrated the notational and instrumental fields of architecture and music in a manner that pushes idea into territory, which simply translates one form into the other. Jim Lutz quotes Daniel Libeskind in his essay “Transpositions“, saying, “Buildings provide spaces for living but are also de facto instruments, giving shape to the sound of the world. Music and architecture are related not only by metaphor but also through concrete space. Every building I have admired is, in effect, a musical instrument whose performance gives space a quality that often seems to be transcendent and immaterial” (Libeskind, The Walls are Alive). This quote represents a powerful perspective that this research is interested in furthering. If the relationship is taken literally, a simple and trivial type of project prevails.
The following projects aim to illustrate this literal translation of instruments as architecture and architecture as instruments. These projects do not engage with the topic of instrumentation as previously discussed. Instead, they engage with the topic of instrumentation in a very literal sense. The first translation, instruments as architecture can be seen in the student works from John Hejduk’s architecture studio at the Cooper Union that took place during the 1970’s and 1980’s. In these exercises, students selected an instrument and drew it as an architectural study thus turning an instrument into a building or space.
Drawings of an oboe by Stephan Isola at the Cooper Union (1980)
Another work that can be seen to use conventional instruments and imagine them as buildings is the Piano Building in Huainan China by architectural students at the Hefei University of Technology. This project is a literal violin, and piano scaled up to the size of a building, where the violin is the made of glass and leans against a shiny black skinned piano with glass ribbon windows. An escalator in the violin ascends into the piano that is set up on piloti (its piano legs). Both the Piano Building and Hejduk’s design studio exercise a practice that is cheeky, but short sighted. It does not exemplify the conceptual practice and thinking in the interest of this research, however, it is important to note these examples as avenues that have been explored.
Piano Building by Hefei University of Technology (2007)
The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted an advertising campaign where they had a photographer (Mierswa-Kluska) take pictures of the inside of a number of instruments including a violin, cello, flute, and pipe organ. These photographs make “The tight spaces of these instruments appear grand and spacious considering the true nature of their space” (Naik).
Berlin Philharmonic orchestra ad campaign by Mona Sibai (2012)
The inverse translation, architecture as instrument can be seen, in a collection of musical instruments designed and 3D printed by the Miami Beach Architecture firm Monad Studio. Inspired by their use of free-flowing architectural forms, the collaboration with artist and musician Scott F. Hall applied these forms to a series of instruments including a travel bass guitar, violin, cello, didgeridoo, and hornucopia (Zalcberg).
ABYECTO Sonic Environment and Piezoelectric Violin by Monad Studio (2014)
These projects are only a few examples of the integration between architecture and musical instruments, but it is most important to note that this research is not interested in examining it further due to their literal translations. The interest of this research is to investigate new integrations between architecture and music.
The categories and examples in the following section will illustrate integrations closer to the nature of what this research is interested in advancing. As we previously mentioned, the categories that Jim Lutz and Marcos Novak provide in their texts Transpositions: Architecture as Instrument/Instrument as Architecture and The Music of Architecture respectively, offer a significant step forward in how to think and understand the categories of instrumentation. Below we examine both of these concepts.