Music and Architecture: The Similarities/Comparisons
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
Music and architecture have more in common than we actually know. Similar to how a musician shapes sounds, designers shape our spatial experience. Architecture is essentially like ‘frozen music’, it is a beautiful - in some cases emotional outlet, that has remained frozen in time, an artifact that can be admired time and time again.
Music typically follows a pattern constructed with notes played to a time signature or beat. Like music, architecture follows a pattern to, and is defined by its shape and structure. There is a rhythm to any building, structure and a solid foundation are the most important aspects in design - or else the building would just collapse, same as a song. You can’t have the drummer changing the tempo every few bars or the whole band goes out of time. Even interiors are closely examined, the heart of the house - generally centrally located is surrounded by other rooms that are likely in close proximity. You wouldn’t have your only bathroom located in your garage… there is rhythm to how the house is organized and flows, as well as its exterior shape. Rhythm is what holds a tune together while allowing notes to flow musically, and rhythm is what holds your home together. Shape, structure and balance are always the first thought.
In the world of music, texture is about instrumentation and mass of sound. There is wonderful texture when listening to an orchestra, all those beautiful strings melting over sharp horns and punches of percussion. Architecture has similar features - just different. Texture is often present in the layering and juxtaposition of materials and how they are perceived with light. How we react emotionally to materials is similar to how we react to instrumentation of music.
Point of Focus/Hook
We all know each song has its hook. That memorable sonic aspect of a song that gets our reaction. Well guess what, so do buildings. We can all visualize the Louvre in our minds. The glass enclosed entrance pyramid is the pinnacle attraction, the first thing people see, its most memorable aspect.
Musical harmony is a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts pleasing to the ear. Music that is inharmonious is an unpleasant listening experience. Achieving harmony in architecture is a visual experience but equally displeasing when the space is somehow incongruous with us. This has been explored through principles such as fengshui and other ways of making built spaces which integrate with nature. Harmony means unity and careful balancing of materials with proportions and an overall sense of ease. Next time you're in a cafe on your lunch break, stop and notice. What music is playing in the background, what kind of decor do they have up, what’s the vibe? Are those two things harmonizing with you? If so, feel free to relax.
Colour & Dynamics
This topic speaks directly to mood. We can all imagine our favourite room in the house, how does it make you feel, what colour is it? It has been argued that music is often also associated with a colour. Blues music became a genre because people associated it with being sad or ‘blue’. Your house is the same, colour impacts your mood on such a subliminal level that often we don’t notice it.