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Signatures of students, paired in teams, on the first day of Architectonics of Music studio. Cover image from DesĂŠrts, by Margarita Calero and Alfonso Simelio Jurado.

Introduction Steven Holl

Four 3

Yun Shi and Yiqing Zhao


Shu Yang and Yang Xia


Andriana Koutalianou and Lanxi Sun





Agon Wenlong Yan and Sang Hyun Lee

In C

Khan Shibly and Lo Chong Chan



Déserts Margarita Calero and Alfonso Simelio Jurado




Not yet architecture


Dimitra Tsachrelia

What is music? Raphael Mostel “Music and architecture” a poem by John Cage



“About to be music the silence listens.”

“ It is perfectly true that music and architecture flower from the same stem.

Robert Kelly July 2013

The composer has his score. The architect has his… system on which he works, and the minds are very similar, practically the same. My father was a musician… he taught me to see a great symphony as an edifice, an edifice of sound… So never miss the idea that architecture and music belong together. They are practically one.”

Frank Lloyd Wright Lecture, Detroit, 1957

Introduction 8

Music, like architecture, is an immersive experience; it surrounds you. One can turn away from a painting or a work of sculpture, while music and architecture engulf the body in space. “The Architectonics of Music” records the sixth in a series of studios taught at Columbia University on music and architecture. They are part of a larger project to develop cross-disciplinary, inspiration-provoking work on new architectural languages. Taught with architect Dimitra Tsachrelia and composer Raphael Mostel, this studio began with a four week experiment translating a music excerpt into space, material, and form. In the first half of the studio, six teams of two students selected works of 20th century composers with an eye to the geometric potential of translation to architecture. The second half of the studio focused on transcribing the language experiment at the Center for Contemporary Music Research in Athens, established by Iannis Xenakis. The students chose from three potential sites for their experiments. Research into music and architecture moves forward at a time when architectural pedagogy is diffused, worn out. Schools of architecture today seem directionless. Postmodernism and deconstruction have passed into history, while the euphoria of technique in “parametrics” promises a lack of idea and spirit, and neglect of the importance of scale, material, detail, proportion, and light. Yet, we continue to see potential in future architecture as open to experiment and as connected to spirit. While we ask, “what is architecture?” we also ask, “what is music”?” Steven Holl July 16, 2013

Four 3 Yun Shi and Yiqing Zhao 10

Four 3 (1991) is the third in a series of compositions for four musicians. It is the last work that John Cage was commissioned to compose for the choreographer Merce Cunningham. Spatial in conception, the music blends chance, non-intention, and silences with sounds that are exclusively quiet, slow and minimal (predominantly rainsticks). The result is a floating, meditative world in which Cunningham had some of the dancers balance horizontally nearly motionless on a single leg for long periods. The architectural counterpart explores concepts of weightlessness and interpenetration. A thin, finely perforated tactile material is suspended on three concrete cores. This newly invented material “Z” allows play of light and shadow – like an instrument of delicate sound. Large voids within this materiality make silence part of the architecture, while the composition as a whole wraps inside-out mysteriously to create a constantly changing field. Movement starts from the concrete cores up and follows separate interpenetrating routes that meet and correlate unpredictably, like a chance operation in Cage’s music.

Suspended on three concrete cores, the structure incorporates newly invented material “Z”.




Psappha Shu Yang and Yang Xia 14

In 1976 Iannis Xenakis created Psappha for solo percussion, named for the ancient Greek poet (commonly spelled ‘Sappho’), using the composer’s concept of “sieves” – that is, modular mathematical filters for creating sequences of musical components. Psappha is purely (poly)rhythmic, with only a rough suggestion of pitch. There are very few dynamics and no sustained sonorities. Each note is treated as an attack, and the sense of time only exists in the work to measure the space between attacks. The score calls for 16 percussion instruments, but leaves the choice open, specifying nine different skin or wooden instruments, and seven metal ones. The independent nature of the percussion beats in music is interpreted as isolated spaces in architecture. The 16 spaces, reflecting the number of instruments in the piece, are cubical and suspended on steel rods or hung from a rhythmic grid (as in Xenakis’ grid-like score). Each space has a sharply solid and concrete materiality with distinct acoustic qualities: there are spaces of silence, time, perception, and notes. These spaces are connected by rooms that move vertically and horizontally between and through them. Each movement defines a different path in a non-linear sequence.




Concrete and paper cubes move up and down as elevators.

Pithoprakta Andriana Koutalianou and Lanxi Sun 18

Iannis Xenakis’ Pithoprakta (“actions through probability”, 1956) was scored for 46 strings, two trombones, xylophone, and woodblock. The middle section is entirely plucked strings, with each instrument conceived as a molecule obeying the kinetic theory of gasses, statistically deployed according to probabilities. Xenakis created the 2½ minute Concret PH as the entrance and exit music for the Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, a concrete parabloid-hyperbolic (PH) structure designed with Le Corbusier. Punning on the concept of musique concrète (electronic music derived from acoustic source material), Xenakis sourced the crackling sound of burning charcoal. He cut tape into fragments, which he then spliced, layered and re-recorded on tape to create a new sound world in a method similar to the middle section of Pithoprakta, which Xenakis later compared to fractals. At the nexus of the two musical pieces is the concept of isotropic space, the principle of homogeneity and self-similarity that underlies the statistical theories of gas kinetics. Foamed aluminum, produced by encapsulating gas bubbles into melted metal, is a material expression of the molecular velocities described musically in Pithoprakta. Concrete slabs cast in thin triangular elements refer to Concret PH. The synthesis makes for a complex spatial experience, multiple levels of sharp contrasts, and moments of sparkling light. This dramatic expression is, in Xenakis’ own words, a “strange soundscape” with “lines of sound moving in complex paths from point to point in space, like needles darting from everywhere.”

Iannis Xenakis, preparatory graphic study, measures 52-59 of Pithoprakta, 1955.

Spaces shaped by textured foam aluminum.


Xenakis’ concept sketch for Pithoprakta


Agon Wenlong Yan and Sang Hyun Lee 22

Igor Stravinsky’s Agon, a ballet for 12 dancers (1953 – 57), was originally composed for choreographer George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet; the word agon is Greek for “competition.” Bridging his neo-classical and serial periods, Stravinsky throws expectations off-balance, rhythmically, numerically, and harmonically, as did Balanchine in the choreography. Choreographer Martha Graham created the famous solo Lamentation for herself as both an image of a woman grieving, and an homage to contemporary architecture, particularly the skyscrapers which were then beginning to fill the New York skyline. Relying heavily on the stretch fabric of the costume, the dance was described by critic Elizabeth Kendall as “a skyscraper reeling.” The music by Zoltan Kodály, is the second of his set of Nine Piano Pieces, op. 3, miniatures for solo piano. Both collaborations evoke ideas about the connection between time, dance and music, as well as balance, tension, and movement. The balance/off-balance dichotomies in Stravinsky’s music and Balanchine’s dancers inspire ideas about tension and movement in architecture. For balance, a dancer needs strength inside the body, which creates physical tension. Martha Graham’s contraction/ release movements embody this tension, heightened by the folds and textures on her costume. Architecture is expressed as a body in tension, captured in a moment of balance lightly touching the ground, while inviting a flow of movement from the energy within.

Martha Graham in Lamentation, 1943

Formal excercise on balance.




In C Khan Shibly and Lo Chong Chan 26

Composer Terry Riley, responding to Arnold Schoenberg’s statement that there are still many great works waiting to be written in C-major (the most rudimentary major scale), created this heterophonic work in 1964, which is widely acknowledged to have put minimalist music on the map. Over a steady eighth-note pulse, any number of musicians play through a series of 53 notated melodic cells, limited only by the responsibility of the musicians to listen carefully to each other so that no one gets more than two or three phrases ahead of anyone else. Like the simple musical phrases of In C, fundamental linear and planar elements are what drive the architectural design. These elements are repeated throughout the composition and freely define the space. Analogous to the musical piece, the structure creates a geometrical basis for the space to unfold in all directions. One can move along diverging stairs and paths. When experienced through time the planar surfaces unfold in varying densities and from overlapping perspectives. A complexity created by simple means. This experiment suggests a language for an open-ended architecture, open to one’s own interpretation.

In C by Terry Riley

Linear structure connected by steel nodes suspends planar composition.




Déserts Margarita Calero and Alfonso Simelio Jurado 30

Edgard Varèse originally proposed Déserts (1954) to Walt Disney as the soundtrack for a projected film on deserts and solitude, but went ahead and composed it without visual accompaniment. It was the first composition in which acoustic and electronic music confronted each other in the same work. Fourteen winds, five percussionists, and one piano alternate with interpolated interludes on electronic tape. Varèse described his work as “organized sound” designed “to explode in space.” Architecturally, the orchestral portion of the music is rendered as passages and channels in metal mesh that rise and drop, just as the music in its fluidity can change suddenly. The confrontation between acoustic and electronic music is represented by concrete walls with geometric cutouts. Designed “to explode in space”, the structure is articulated by a mechanism that allows the model to open 360 degrees, inverting itself. When the block is closed, two separate circulations become intertwined, while remaining detached. When the block opens, new external paths connect from one half to the other. The external walls that once delimitated the cube come into contact, creating a shortcircuit, where unexpected moments occur.





Yiqing Zhao Khan Shibly Margarita Calero Lo Chong Chan Sang Hyun Lee Yang Xia, Lanxi Sun Wenlong Yan BOTTOM ROW LEFT TO RIGHT

Yun Shi Shu Yang Alfonso Simelio Jurado Raphael Mostel Andriana Koutalianou



Material x Sound Time


Material x Light Space

“Sound is to music as light is to architecture.� Steven Holl Stretto House Concept, 1988

Dimitra Tsachrelia, Stefania Fleck, 2008 Insipired by Iannis Xenakis, Metastaseis, 1953-54

“Music, like architecture,


is time and space.”

Le Corbusier

David H. Sin, 2008. Inspired by György Ligeti, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra-1, 1990.

Chih Yang, 2008


“A composition is like a house that you can walk around in.”

John Cage

Rychiee Espinosa and Dahlia Roberts, 2009 Inspired by Conlon Nancarrow, Study No. 37, late 1960s

Not yet architecture 42

I first encountered the idea of architecture originating from music in 2008 as a student in the “Architectonics of Music” studio where I did the project, Metastaseis. I was inspired by expressing Xenakis’ glissandi in spatial terms, making light integral to the materiality, and questioning the linear perception of time. Reflecting back on this project, and knowing intimately the works produced in this exhibit, reveals to me how the multiple objectives of the studio unfold. The studio asks students to explore qualities of space and material that generate connections to musical concepts, and vice verse. It begins with the question: can structure, proportion, scale, detail, light or time be meaningful in both architectural and musical terms? Thereby, it encourages a creative stretching of thought in two streams simultaneously. The studio provokes an open-minded approach, challenging students to enter a sphere of yet-unexplored ideas, and taking risks outside their comfort zone – with the hope of producing authentic ideas. The projects live within the realm of not yet architecture—an abstract, transitional zone between the clearly defined limits of music and architecture—where the potential for poetic expression and novel experimentation may flourish. Dimitra Tsachrelia The introduction of Metastaseis

August 11, 2013

What is Music? “Unless we take a chance, we die in art.”


Morton Feldman

Music is the interpenetration of sound and space through time. Hearing is the only sense that does not sleep. It begins before birth and even continues for a brief time after death. It is immersive and unstoppable. Sound is inherently spatial. Sometimes even contradicting sight, which reflects surface and shape, hearing surveys the interior — whether of space, material or object. Nothing reveals interior content more honestly than sound. Tap on a wall or a melon to reveal what cannot be seen beyond the surface. Inhabiting space through time is the native condition of music. Erik Satie’s Musique d’ameublement (Furniture Music) satirized the false conception of music as immaterial or passive. John Cage demonstrated that by intently listening, nothingness is not empty, and emptiness is not nothing. Back in the 18th century, Ernst Chladni discovered how sounds force space to conform to their shaping. Reversing that process, Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting in a Room gradually transformed his own voice into that of the space itself. Witold Lutoslawski likened his compositions to urban planning. Through the “magic charm” of non-retrogradable inversions and rhythmic cycles, Olivier Messiaen claimed to transmute time itself into space. While drawing on ancient Greek mythology and philosophers, Iannis Xenakis structured compositions according to more contemporary scientific theories and methods of measurement, to make aurally manifest the nature of the world. Method is useful only when shining through it is the light and resonance of inspiration. Language. Vocabulary. Form. Scale. Technique. Gesture. “Architectonics of Music” seeks resonances and new inspirations from those points where the disciplines and ideas of music and architecture interpenetrate. Raphael Mostel July 25, 2013

Chladni patterns: sand on metal plates allow every pitch to manifest its own distinctive shape. The 18th century physicist/musician Ernst Chladni was elaborating 17th century architect/polymath Robert Hooke’s discovery of nodal patterns.


“I constantly refer to music in referring to architecture because to me there is no great difference – when you dig deep enough in the realm of not doing things but simply thinking of what you want to do – that all the various ways of expression come to the fore. To me, when I see a plan, I must see the plan as if it were a symphony, of the realm in spaces in the construction of light.” Louis Kahn Silence and Light II , 1969

We at ‘T’ Space are pleased to host this intriguing exhibition “Architectonics of Music” in September 2013. We would like to thank the following Columbia University students for their participation: Yun Shi, Yiqing Zhao, Shu Yang, Yang Xia, Andirana Koutalianou, Lanxi Sun, Wenlong Yan, Sang Hyun Lee, Khan Shibly, Johnny Chan, Margarita Calero and Alfonso SImelio Jurado. We are grateful to Dimitra Tsachrelia for her inspiration in the studio, and for her comprehensive editing of the catalog and mounting of the exhibition. We thank Raphael Mostel for his thoughtful text, his performance of Tibetan bowls at the opening and his insight in the studio. Special thanks goes to Steven Holl for his long-term advancement of this research on music and architecture in both his teaching and his architecture practice. We appreciate the collaboration on the catalog by Dimitra Tsachrelia, Steven Holl, Marietta Brill, and Jim Holl. We are also delighted to have Robert Kelly reading his poetry at the opening. We give thanks to 32BNY, a 501(3)c, for supporting this ‘T’ Space program. Susan Wides August 1, 2013

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