Friday, June 10, 2005

The Sounds of Architecture

"I call architecture frozen music."

Quoted by Johan Wolfgan von Goethe* many, many, many years ago, his description of architecture has been one of the most lasting. It is a quote with many interpretations, most directly reflecting the predominant style of Goethe's time: Baroque architecture and its graceful, flowing contours that seem to solidify all that is intangible. Recent studies of music and architecture - the most well-known being Elizabeth Martin's wonderful Architecture as a Translation of Music - deal less with formal comparisons and more with structure, the building blocks of both disciplines, inspired by the "music" of John Cage. Publicized recently with his biography, Daniel Libeskind turned to architecture after (supposedly) mastering the accordion and (supposedly, again) wowing crowds with his virtuoso performances, another link between architecture and music.

But, if architecture is "frozen music," what does it sound like? That is the question posed by Edward Lifson and Hello Beautiful! for their first ever get-together and live taping on Wednesday, June 22, featuring Tim Samuelson and Reginald R. Robinson. To gear up for the show, they're asking people what music would best accompany this handful of Chicago buildings:

Missing image - frozen.jpg
L-R: Pritzker Bandshell, IIT Student Union, McDonalds' flagship, Michigan Avenue streetwall, Chicago bungalow.

Without answering that question right here and now, it seems that some styles of music are more fitting to this analogy than others, such as Jazz and Classical. Each has a unique structure and complexity that 4/4 Blues and Rock n' Roll don't have, as well minimal or no lyrics that helps make the music stand out above all else. But this point of view that harks back to Martin's small book may not be appropriate; a more fitting approach for Hello Beautiful! may be one of mood and personal experience. Because just like Goethe's quote, architecture and music are wide open to personal interpretation, our experience of each tempered by our experiences, memories, personalities, etc. It should be interesting to see (and hear) how people respond musically to these buildings above.

*Friedrich Von Schelling also said "Architecture in general is frozen music."