By: Hunter Wilson
I am Hunter Wilson, a student currently studying in the Southern Illinois University Masters of Architecture program. I began my education at Vincennes University located in my hometown of Vincennes, Indiana. After receiving an Associate’s Degree in Architectural studies, I transferred to SIU where I earned a Bachelor’s Degree and still study today.
The argument that music and architecture are related is hardly even an argument anymore. Terms such as rhythm, movement, proportion and repetition are all synonymous with music and architecture. As Walter Pater said in 1877, “all art constantly aspires toward the condition of music”.
Music can be far more straightforward in its message as compared to architecture. Lyrics help define a message while the music may help define the mood. Music may also be quite vague. It is up to the listener to determine the message based on their experience with the music. The same can happen when experiencing architecture. An architect can make their message felt by the spaces they create.
When someone listens to music, it is easy to instantly connect or disconnect with the music. The same experience happens when entering a piece of architecture. A case of extreme expression in architecture is the Jewish Museum in Berlin by Daniel Libeskind. Libeskind uses sharp edges and expressive angles. The subject matter of historical Jewish hardship helps elevate the forms used to create an unnerving experience. Much like these sharp angles create an unnerving experience, the same can be translated to music. The intense angles and sharp corners can be translated to something such as an intense symphony chord strike or the cutting strike on a violin similar to that heard in a horror movie. These intense chords express a similar feeling of uneasiness.
Another example is the Brandhorst Museum in Munich by Sauerbruch Hutton. The exterior of the building uses techniques such as rhythm and repetition. Horizontal and vertical layers blend with joyful colors that create a ‘visual chord’. This use of material and color is highly contrasted with Libeskind’s Jewish Museum. While the Jewish Museum uses little color and raw material, the Brandhorst Museum uses much vibrancy. The use of many tones of color can be represented as a sort of jazz piece. Many layers, both horizontal and vertical, blended with many colors to create a visual called chromaticism. The color on the exterior also changes as you approach and retreat from the structure. So the building has a different façade from every vantage point that you view it. This is also synonymous with jazz music because it is believed that true jazz music is not supposed to be performed the same way for each performance. Each performance has subtleties and nuances that each performer expresses themselves.
Next time you plan to enter an impressive piece of architecture, stop and think of a song that you think fits with the structure. Think of what the piece is trying to express. It makes the experience of walking through a building much more pleasurable rather than thinking of the building as just a functioning structure.