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The architectural instrumentalist – exploring spatio-temporal interdependence in the composition of performed music and architectural space

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Sound, space and time are inextricably linked. As an architect and musician, I am interested in the simultaneous capacities of architecture to influence the composition and experience of performed music – and of performed music to influence the composition and experience of architectural space. My architectural research project – the Augmented Instrumentalist (tAI) – sets out a methodology by which architectural spaces are understood as and designed to be instruments – as a means of replicating the unique acoustic profile of the city of Venice during the acqua alta. In tandem with the development of acoustically generative themes within my architectural research; my musical compositions actively appropriate architectural spaces as musical instruments, by responding to the acoustic qualities of specific performance spaces. When performed, my pieces exploit acoustical phenomena such as reverberance / echo and sympathetic resonance to articulate and augment musical motifs. For example, by using excessive reverberance to construct a harmonic sequence, or by suggesting a rhythm from an echo. Architectural acoustics have long had an effect on the development of musical ideas: ‘...in the old churches the walls were in fact powerful instruments which the ancients learned to play upon... [When it was discovered that] more than one tone could be heard at the same time with pleasing results, the harmonies produced by the coinciding of notes began to be regulated and used. From this partsinging developed [polyphonic music]’ (Rasmussen, 1962: 230)

This article investigates spatio-temporal interdependence between architecture and performed music within the context of my ongoing research.
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Keywords: acoustic correspondence; instrumental architecture; music performance; performance; resonance; site-specific composition; spatial mediators; spatialised score; spatio-temporal interdependence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University College London

Publication date: 01 June 2017

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  • Design Ecologies foregrounds the inextricable connection between human communication and ecological accountability in architectural design. This burgeoning field has the potential to become a far-reaching discipline, bonding a community that crosses over into and out of architecture, environment, interaction, urbanism, and performing arts and communication.
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