Music moves individuals and transfers them to a seraphic and ethereal world that is seized in their memories. Its form is the interpretation of an idea that stems from the manipulations of its composer. Certainly, music and architecture are divergent in materiality; however, both of them define a spacial typology and are structured correspondingly. Verily, deeply ingrained in each individual, there is a fundamental spark, an artistic impulse, which may give rise to any of the multifarious forms of human expression. In this regard, musical and architectural compositions are most affixed to this elementary abstract origin more than any other art form.
Music and Architecture: An Interpresence
In his book Acoustic Territories, Bruce Smith argues that “Sound provides the most forceful stimulus that human beings experience, and the most evanescent.” Despite its physical immateriality, music designates an impalpable space that is indubitably influencing. Therefore, architecture practitioners and theorists have been captivated by the notion of associating music and architecture, combining their physical and emotional aspects. To explore the possible overlap between the two disciplines, one should deconstruct architecture and music into basic elements and map their respective parts to each other.
Two Major Strains of Thought in the Study of the Interrelations between Architecture and Music
Over the years, architects, musicians, philosophers, and others have examined the correlation between architecture and music. In essence, there are two key strains of thought in the study of the interrelations between architecture and music. Firstly, the mathematical and rational approach is perhaps predominantly referenced by renaissance architects regarding musical harmonies, proportion, and geometry. Iannis Xenakis approached architectural composition similarly to how he composed his music. Secondly, the attention to the atmospheric and emotive power is another method to study the connection between the two disciplines. The power of music does not originate solely from mechanized sequences but is shaped through expressions or responses. Daniel Libeskind, for instance, has utilized this approach in many of his designs.
Similarities between Architecture and Music
The basis of architecture can be traced back to the designer’s vision and identified needs. Similarly, the underpinning of music is a combination of the musician’s vision, the composer’s work, and the audience category. In the field of architecture, giving care to symbols and icons is a way to draw a link between people and buildings. Likewise, using local themes and folkloric tones in musical composition is a means to create a mental and emotional connection with people. Another similarity is that both architecture and music possess an experimental mental load and cannot impact two different individuals in like manner. Moreover, the two disciplines conceal abstract concepts and profound messages inside them.
Creation of an Immersive Sensorial Experience
Both architecture and music are consequential parts of our daily life. Still, certain experiential attributes distinguish architecture and music from other artistic forms. Most notably, both disciplines engulf their receivers in utterly immersive experiences. In other words, when individuals are experiencing architecture or music, they are enwrapped in their astounding realms and enclosed in a sensorial entity that is different from that we ordinarily live in. When one is inside a building or focused on a piece of music, one cannot naturally turn away. Instead, one would remain involved in the experience. As such, music and architecture have the power to create an atmosphere and sculpt an environment and mood even for a casual receiver. These two disciplines have a boundless potential to shape humans’ emotional states. For instance, we choose specific places to study or relax in and we adapt the configurations of certain spaces to bring forth the desired mood. In such a manner, both architecture and music hold a great grip on our immediate emotional states. As Frank Lloyd Wright postulates, it is perfectly true that music and architecture flower from the same stem.
A great example of the amalgamation of music and architecture is the Busan Opera House in South Korea. “Anisotropia” is the name given to one of the proposed designs by the Orproject firm. The design is based on a twelve-tone row which is repeated and changed by the different voices, to generate complex rhythmic patterns which are used to control the façade’s view, light, and shading properties. The flow of the façade layers is determined by the programs which they encompass. Additionally, the distinct façade layers unfurl towards the city, initiate the structure for a bridge, and then carefully disappear back into the ground. Hence, the project becomes a frozen piece of music.
On the whole, both music and architecture are art forms, and even though they draw from divergent expressions, they are joined together by proportions and rhythm, from which ideas and creativity emerge. Proportions, for instance, support the musical composition through notes and intervals. Likewise, they guarantee the correct balance of an architectural design. When it comes to rhythm, it allows a piece of music to build up its unique beat, while, in architecture, it can unite, highlight, direct, and set the dynamics. It also helps in how the space is perceived in terms of appearance and functionality. Henceforth, it comes as no surprise that music can influence architecture, from the creation and development of an idea to the outcome.
- Morimoto, M., 2017. MUSIC AND ARCHITECTURE: NOTES ON EXPERIENCING THE CONVERGENCE OF MUSIC AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT. [ebook] pp.II-1-4-5. Available at: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/211328532.pdf
Falakian, N. and Falakian, A., 2013. Study on the Relationship between Architecture and Music. [online] Textroad.com. Available at: https://www.textroad.com/pdf/JAEBS/J.%20Appl.%20Environ.%20Biol.%20Sci.,%203(9)94-98,%202013.pdf
BEESEN, R., 2016. MUSIC AND ARCHITECTURE: AN INTERPRESENCE. Master Thesis. [ebook] pp.18-19-20. Available at: https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1352&context=masters_theses_2
Team, E., 2021. Music and Architecture: How Buildings are the Outcome of These Two Forms of Art Combined – RMJM. [online] RMJM. Available at: https://rmjm.com/music-and-architecture-how-buildings-are-the-outcome-of-these-two-forms-of-art-combined/
Core77. 2022. Anisotropia by Orproject: Architecture from Music – Core77. [online] Available at: https://www.core77.com/posts/20318/anisotropia-by-orproject-architecture-from-music-20318