Monday, October 29, 2012

Architecture and Music

David Byrne has a great TED Talk about how architecture helped music to evolve. He traces music from its early church venues through today's pop music stadiums discussing what kind of music functions best in each place and how the music evolved to fit those spaces. I encourage all to give it a watch. After going showing the transition music made from gothic cathedrals to smaller spaces with less reverb allowing Mozart to compose more "intricate and frilly" music, he shows a picture of La Scala, in Milan. He then explains how the audience would shout to each other, gossip, eat, drink and be merry during opera performances, demanding immediate encores of arias they loved. Next, he shows a picture of Carnegie Hall, and addresses the shift from a rowdy audience to a submissive and quiet one. As the performance halls changed, it led to the capability of ensembles to play dynamically, since they no longer needed to compete with a rowdy audience, and so the Romantic symphony orchestra began to thrive as the audience remained in silence. He finishes up with a few more examples of how pop music is composed for large stadium concerts and mp3 players, again, both of which affect how the music is written.

This idea, of music being composed for a specific space, whether intentionally or not, could be instrumental in the future. Instead of writing pieces that perpetuate the traditional concert hall schema, pieces could be composed for new spaces, or even in ways that re-imagine the traditional hall. John Cage does this with some of his pieces, but I think the key is to ensure it creates a meaningful and relatable experience for the audiences of today. I'd be curious to see if anyone knows of this being done now, and I'd also like to ask the composers out there if specific venues inform their composition process, and to what degree. It would also be an interesting project to collaborate with architects to create new spaces or edit old ones to give new music its ideal acoustic environment. To me, the relationship should be symbiotic, in a sense. As new spaces are created, music evolves to fill those spaces, and as musical ideas evolve, the spaces should evolve to fit those ideas.

1 comment:

Kaley Lane Eaton said...

This is totally my freakin' obsession. The books I referenced in my earlier post about environmental sound and music all address this - it's SO fascinating when you look at it cross-culturally, and certain cultures preference for different sound environments and how their music relates. "The Soundscape" by R. Murray Schafer as well as "Temperament" by Ross Duffin both talk in depth about this. So neat!!!!!!!