“Music is liquid architecture;
Architecture is frozen Music.”
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The above saying is wildly popular, at least among the architects. But it seems that architecture has evolved into much more than ‘frozen’ music. The relation between spaces and music has changed over the decades, credits to easy accessibility of technology and globalization.
The ‘standard’ human silhouette is changing now- every one of them has headphones over their heads, or earphones dangling around their necks, or, the new sensation- the earpods. The contemporary human moves with something plugged in her or his ears, usually listening to music. Music often manages to conjure an imaginary world around the listener. What started as a recreational luxury has now become an everyday escape from everyday life of monotony and morbidity. But what has led to this explosion in the popularity of music?
When we are in our happiest moments, having the time of our lives, do we not wish for time to stay completely still- not move an inch, ever? As soon as we realize the moments have gone past, we also realize that we didn’t want them to. We want to go back to that moment, live through that precise configuration of space through the same instances in time. We tend to cling to things and to the sounds that take us where we want to be, especially when they seem like a better place to be in than our current occupancy.
The trend to listen to music while performing daily activities like doing the dishes, cooking food, or even at work has gripped the new generation. But what is it about listening on the go? Why do we like listening to music while walking to, and through, places? Do we no longer want to live in the spaces we move in? Instead, do we want to live in our experiences, our past- in some memories from our life that we cherish dearly?
Our brain associates every piece of music to a particular memory or a person, and listening to the same sounds throws our brain down the memory lane. And now, with music being so easily and permanently available, it is starting to shape our understanding of spaces and its meaning, perhaps without us even realizing it. Listening to music takes us places, and with the new forms and devices allowing us absolute control over our auditory environment, we are all set to stay in places that feel comfortable. The spaces we design do not seem to matter anymore, at least not more than their first impression- we give them a brief look, and then back we are into our head(phone)s- our private bubbles of existence.
Sociologist Edward Hall, in his book “The Hidden Dimension” from 1966, introduced to the world his discipline of Proxemics. He defined the “interrelated observations and theories of man’s use of space as a specialized elaboration of culture.” He concretized the notion of so-called ‘personal space’, the invisible force field (which, according to Hall, spans about a foot and a half outside the human body) that most of us seem to ensconce ourselves in while traversing through public places. The breach of implied boundaries is neither welcomed nor tolerated. Earphones have allowed us to put up barriers to shut out distractions, which also includes people. They allow us to bring the privacy of home into public spaces, rather than engaging in the sounds around us.
This can very well be utilized in many ways to enhance our spatial experiences. Now, we do not need the perfect site to create the desired ambiance of a space, to complement its design intent- we can simply take the aid of digitally produced auditory and virtually produced sensory stimulations to create the near-perfect environment for the space to exist, and for us to exist in it.
Although it is quite prominent now that music has a certain impact on everybody’s life and that everyone is embracing it into their ‘personal’ space, the question remains- is it the music that intrigues us or the boredom we feel from spaces around us? Maybe it is the monotony of our daily routines that make it seem as if our buildings are outdated- the current trends, perhaps, demand more breath-taking facades, more awe-inspiring spaces; but more than anything, they crave for dynamics, for a constant change. Maybe the spaces of today are required to offer something new every day?
How would you like a fusion of the virtual and physical reality, of the spaces that exist within us and the ones we exist in…