Architecture as frozen music is an ancient idea. The origin of the exact metaphor is attributed to architect Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (Saleh Pascha, 2004). The span between fluid and fixed forms is the terrain for my research into sonic scenography (see dictionary and Opening Scenography. The dialogue between architecture and music in my practice embraces and includes the audience in several ways, as both fluid and solid forms surround them. The music that I am searching for lies waiting to be discovered in the resonances of spaces. I explore the musical potential of spaces by sounding in the space with instruments, including voice, and by playing the architecture to reveal its acoustic affordances. By implementing this method the space becomes both resonating body and sounding body. The German word Klangkörper contains both of these possibilities: architecture can be a body that creates sound, and a space where sound resonates.
In his thesis “Frozen Music”. The relationship between architecture and music in the aesthetic theory architect Khaled Saleh Pascha mentions a Brahmanic myth (Tandya-Mahâ-Brâhmana V1, 5, 10-13 ) where the transformation from sound to substance occurred (Saleh Pascha, 2004). It is a description of the transient moment between fluid and static form that can help us reflect on sound and architecture in in-between-states between fluid and frozen. The myth describes the fading of the primary original sound (Ur-sound) which enables the formation of matter. The formed silent matter consequently hides residues of the Ur-sound out of which it is made in its acoustic qualities (Saleh Pascha, 2004). Sound today still exists, together with substance. If we read the myth from this perspective, it means that the material that substance is made of was so plentiful that its several forms could co-exist. In my work I explore the possibility of letting sound enter substance states temporarily, phenomenologically. Simultaneously, I search for the sounds that are trapped in the substance by playing the architecture as an instrument and by activating the resonances of the spaces. (Refer to Musica Munda and Musica Mundana) My work could then be seen as a contemporary celebration of the mythological transient moment between sonic energy forms.
Architecture is space, and simultaneously it structures space. It is structured space. In its fixed form it is a (re-)active dialogue partner for sound due to the complexity of the formation of both entities. In my investigation of the scenographic potential of acoustic sound, I am researching the way sonic structures and movements of sound in a space can make up a spatial music that holds similar qualities to architecture. A construction made of sounds materializes in a space, and in turn creates an ever-changing space that is meant to be entered. In my acoustic spatial sound compositions, static architecture reveals rhythm through spatial partition and structural elements that are repeated in the space, musical structure reveals its rhythms and transitions over time. A temporal structure for sounds, a temporal order and duration for sonic events is given, as much as paths for the movement of sound, placement of sound and a fluid sonic structure to be moved through. While architecture is an art of space and music is understood as an art of time, I see my sonic scenographies and acoustic spatial sound compositions at the crossing of these two related art forms. It is a space-time-art. The creation is a constant negotiation with time and space in equal measure. In dialogue with the space the sounds create structures, which are both seemingly static and clearly ephemeral. This sonic space becomes multi-dimensional when explored freely by an audience, like when moving attentively through a building.
Architecture guides the movement of people in spaces. Spaces, corridors, halls, stairs, doors, and windows inform the visitor physically how to make use of and move through the space. However, when a human enters and moves through a building, temporality in the experience of architecture reveals its importance. Architect Juhani Pallasmaa claims that “architecture initiates, directs and organises behaviour and movement” (Pallasmaa, 2012, p.68). Architecture therefore also guides the experience of the space.
Musical composition organises sound in time. Different to architecture, music is dynamic, energy rather than material, it is fleeting (Saleh Pascha, 2004). It reveals its qualities, information and structure over time, having a temporal flexibility different to architecture. The vulnerability of sound can be a strength when we acknowledge its potential to interact with its surrounding and all bodies involved the space-making and in space-care (refer to dictionary). Even if an aural journey does not require attention to a real space, the texture of sounds and sonic patterns, their dimensions, colour-spectra, the sonic bodies in shift and interaction, reveal themselves fully only when experienced with the whole body in the space, in dialogue with the space.
Evidently, encounters with music as well as architecture speak to the experience of human beings. In the performance Vokal-De-Konstruktion (2017), the audience was able to walk through the musical construction of sacral choir music organised similarly to an architectural structure. Site-sensitive acoustic spatial sound performance opens a dialogue between sound and architecture. It gives unique access to a site. As its multi-dimensionality opens, it makes the architecture and the space that it holds approachable in a new way. In Vokal-De-Konstruktion the form of the music moved and changed over time as the sonic structure embraced the visitors entirely, similarly to how they were also immersed in the architecture. Paul Valéry describes this possibility to embrace the human body entirely as the affinity of music and architecture (Valéry et al., 2017). I believe that the “bodiless observer” that Pallasmaa identifies within the hegemony of the eye (Pallasmaa, 2012, p.29) can find a “spatio-kinetic” (Pallasmaa, 2012) experience or “bodily sensing” (Böhme and Engels-Schwarzpaul, 2018) in a spatial sound performance. This can re-sensualize our relationship with our environment.
The employed perspectives for the experience of both art forms creates a temporality of the experience. Music is structured over time, and is therefore defined by time. By this I mean that time is formed by the music that takes place in it, or rather that our perception of time is influenced by how the music employs time, meaning that the sonic forms also shape time, as much as architectural elements influence how we move through a space. Both, therefore, alter our relation to time on a phenomenological level. But while music is defined by time in this way if experienced from the periphery, its temporality does not need to affect us. Both music and architecture can envelop the perceiver but in order to be embraced in this way, a physical presence that opens for embodied experience is needed. The attention one gives to the elements and their relations in proximity allows for the inclusionary affect to unfold. Therefore, it is the capacity of each music performance and architecture to trigger the participation of the perceiver that needs to be activated. The artist needs to stimulate the engagement of the visitor with their surroundings, in order to facilitate a physical spatiotemporal experience.
Other temporal aspects that derive from the co-presence of architecture and music are the dialogue between the past that architecture connects us to, and the presence that sound makes so evident through its very ephemerality. Both connect us to a sense of time. The performers and the perceivers are the connecting part. They allow for these two temporalities to converse, and they add imagination and memory.