The systems of musical scoring and the methods of drawing found in architecture have overlapping areas of interest within their respective notational system. Notational relationships are concerned with how the design and compositional process relates to its representative forms; a drawing is representational of the actual building just as a score represents the actual music. The actual and representative modalities of architecture and music contain both a spatial and temporal component and each is designed or composed in the mental sphere and performed, executed or built in the physical sphere. Architects and musicians have continued to find this commonality inspirational when composing music or designing architecture.
Graphic Notation in Music
Graphic Notation is “the representation of music “by which visual shapes or patterns are used instead of, or together with, conventional musical notation” (Pryer, Anthony). The use of visual symbols outside the realm of traditional music notation is conventionally known in the field of music as “graphic notation” and has been practiced since the 1950’s. Composers such as Feldman, Cage, Xenakis and Stockhausen experimented with different methods of composing music through the method of drawing. Morton Feldman’s score for Projections represents one of the earliest examples of graphic notation in music (Feldman). Inspired by the discipline of abstract art and spatialized sound the Projections series paved the way for a visual method to compose music.
Projections by Morton Feldman (1950-51)
Inspired by Feldman’s graphic series, John Cage also experimented with graphic notation and would go on to create scores such as Fontana Mix (1958) and Variations 1 (1958). In 1968 John Cage published a collection of graphic manuscripts called Notations (Cage) that illustrated the “many directions in which musical notation was now going,” and the book itself was composed using I-Ching chance operations.
Fontana Mix by John Cage (1958) image credit: John Cage
The graphic score of Pithoprakta by Iannis Xenakis premiered in 1956 by the German conductor Hermann Scherchen is another example of graphic notation in music. Scherchen, along with Olivier Messiaen championed Xenakis’ work and encouraged Xenakis to pull from his architectural background and Greek heritage. Pithoprakta, whose name translates to “actions through probability” is written for 50 instruments and is based upon mathematical probabilities and statistics of Brownian motion and Gauss’ law, where each instrument is a player in an equation that unfolds over time.
Pithoprakta Graphic Score bars 52-59 by Iannis Xenakis (1956)
Karlheinz Stockhausen also used graphics scores in his compositional process. Among them are Kontakte (1960), Mikrophonie 1 (1964), and Elektronische Studien II (1974). He used his method to explore music and sound’s relationship to space, creating some spatial compositions, to be covered later in the section.
Mikrophonie 1 Tutti 157 Score by Karlheinz Stockhausen (1964)
Since the mid 20th century, many composers have continued to experiment with graphic notation up to the modern day. Artists such as Brain Eno, Will Redman, Pat Muchmore and Hans-Christoph Steiner have made significant contributions to the visual form of music notation, each providing new musical interpretations and simultaneously informing the compositional act of drawing with musical concepts.
Graphic Notation in Architecture
In the architectural discipline, graphic notation is also present, though the resulting artifact is translated into static form. Concerned with how spatial and temporal relationships of graphic notation and musical scoring are applied to the architectural sphere, graphic notation is common in the architectural design process using it to diagram a building’s program, circulation and spatial hierarchy. Additionally, there are architectural works that use graphic notation in a manner that extends beyond the architectural design process. The architect Daniel Libeskind has designed some of the most well-known examples.
Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin Germany is one such project. Inspired by an abstract presentation of the Star of David and the reference to the spoken words of “o Wort, du Wort” in Arnold Schonberg’s 1932 opera Moses und Adam whose third and final act is unfinished (Clements, Moses und Aron review unmissable, rare Schoenberg opera) are translated into the graphic layout of the facade.
Jewish Museum Berlin by Daniel Libeskind (1987-99)
Another interesting and much less literal example by Daniel Libeskind is The Chamber Works. These 28 drawings are, as Libeskind calls them, “Architectural Meditations on Themes from Heraclitus” which are based on the philosophical writings of the pre-Socratic, Ionian philosopher Heraclitus. Jeffery Kipnis, in the collection of book of works called Perfect Acts of Architecture (Kipnis) calls the Chamber Works “the Apollo to the Micromega’s (also by Libeskind) Dionysus” and discusses how the 28 drawings” form a score, one that must be played, however, for it cannot be read”. Iannis Xenakis quoted an ancient phase by Heraclitus, which addressed a similar concept saying, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man”. Thought its relevance isn’t immediately obvious, the meaning addresses the world’s constant change of flux and its impact on Xenakis’ musical and architectural compositions that we will discuss further in section 2.4.
Micromegas by Daniel Libeskind (1979)
Chamber Works by Daniel Libeskind (1983)
The Bebop Spaces by the architect and professor Bennett Robert Neiman illustrates a similar approach to Libeskind’s Chamber Works. These drawings pull from the musical works of the influential Jazz Leap Frog by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. The space, line, volume, and texture of the music are translated into complex geometries in three-dimensional space. In Neiman’s Paper, he quotes Dizzy Gillespie “First you learn your instrument. Then you learn music. Then you forget both of those and just blow” (Neiman), this sense of flow is especially important in the improvisational character of jazz, and is an important component in the making of spatial forms. Having a fluent relationship with the instrument and space allows for a creative flow that is essential archimusic and the making of spatiotemporal forms.
Bebop Spaces by Bennett Robert Neiman (2004)
The Manhattan Transcripts by Bernard Tschumi is another project that exemplifies the relationship of graphic notation pushing beyond the conventional realm. Here Tschumi presents four episodes (Park, Street, Tower, Block). Using photographs, diagrams, maps, Tschumi exhibits an architectural notation that pushes the boundary of convention and illustrates movement and events not typically represented in architectural drawings, pairing space ad the action of an event.