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Architectural Structures as Musical Instruments

Link - article by Avi Abrams

"Architecture is Like a Song, Frozen in Stone" -
Superb Examples of Blending Music and Architecture

We've seen some examples of Living, Growing Architecture, but in this article we'll cover even more fascinating aspects of unusual structures and buildings - namely, their own, unique and often frightening VOICE.

Perhaps you would not want to hear what the "Haunted House of Usher" would sound like, and what it might somberly whisper to a prying ear - but this is exactly what some musicians, performers and architects would like to do to the old (even abandoned) buildings: to bring out the sonorous landscapes of moaning pillars, roof-beams, haunting bells and perhaps an eek of a startled mouse, or two.

"Playing the Building", Quite Literally

A sound installation by Talking Heads' David Byrne converts the whole building into a giant musical instrument. Every metal heating or water pipe, every pillar and structural beam are caused to deeply vibrate and resonate - producing often mesmerizing sounds, which any visitor to this installation can play on a very steampunk-ish looking wired piano.

(David Byrne at the Roundhouse. Photo: Jonathan Birch)

London-based photographer Mark Obstfeld, who also wrote about the Morgan Cars Made from Wood for DRB, sends us an exclusive look at this art installation in London:

(photos by Mark Obstfeld)

Last August this installation took place in a pretty famous building (the Camden Roundhouse) - Led Zep, the Doors and Hendrix all played here in the 60's - and perhaps will come back to life in the other location sometime in the future, if there is a popular demand. Here is the video with some of the sounds - click here.

Well, even if you missed the opportunity to "play" this huge building last summer - here is a project which is similar, but this time it produces a GIANT ECHO; and everyone can play it from the internet!

Silophone: The Biggest Echo Instrument - made from the abandoned Silo structure

Silophone "combines sound, architecture, and communication technologies to transform a significant landmark in the industrial cityscape of Montreal, Canada".

By telephone, or even the internet, they will send the sound of your choice echoing through the incredible acoustics of abandoned rusted halls and corridors of this imposing building. Broadcast, transformed and reverberated - these sounds would turn the haunted rooms of this "Half Life" environment into a sonorous cataclysm of overlapping echoes - something an abandoned elevator never dreamed it could do.

(images via)

Order these sounds from Silophone website, and feel yourself become a sinister, epic composer on the spot.

The idea to transform old silo buildings into musical arenas is not new - witness a night club in Russia, which uses the interior acoustics, and even the building's exterior as a light-and-sound show: Gaudi Arena, Moscow:

The Singing Tower - Lake Wales, Florida

All the sounds created by the above-mentioned structures might make for a great Italian giallo movie soundtrack: I wonder if great living film composers Ennio Morricone, or Stelvio Cipriani might not consider using them for some epic movie... But now let's consider something of a more beautiful nature: divine compositions of carillons, which make the bell tower itself sing...

"In a single, simple unit, [the Tower] must sing of music, sculpture, color, architecture, landscape design and the arts of the workers in brass and iron, ceramics, marble, and stone-each part of a chorus, each adding beauty to the others."
-- Milton B. Medary, Designer of the Singing Tower

(images via 1, 2)

The tower houses one of the biggest musical instruments in the world: the 60-bell carillon (more info). Every architectural detail and every level of the tower's structure serve one purpose - enhancing and better resonating the mighty carillon's sound, which is played from a single room keyboard deep in the heart of the tower.

Excavating the Sound: The Singing Building - Eldridge Street Synagogue

Recuperating history from old, dead sounds? Why not! "A sound, once made, never entirely dissipates - it continues to reverberate in the space in which it was made. Its energy approaches but never entirely reaches zero, and it ultimately becomes just another part of the room's natural tone."

The Singing Building is a very strange attempt to excavate old sounds from the walls of the once-vibrant and active synagogue of the Eldridge Street in New York City - perhaps a text-book case of the "aural erosion"... The results of this project you can hear in an audio clip here.

So we have architectural structures recording, storing and playing back some otherworldly sounds. And if that was not enough, here is an idea from a 1926 issue of Science and Invention, how to utilize even the light beams streaming into the room... capturing them, feeding them into a piano, and making music of a very unique kind -

The Light-Beam Piano - more info.



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Blogger Frank Dobner said...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, Cool stuff from a cool site.

OpenID lozlick said...

Don't forget Bill Fontana's art installation 'Harmonic Bridge' which used vibration from the millennium bridge to create a sound art piece in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall.

More information here: http://www.resoundings.org/Pages/Harmonic_Bridge1.htm

Blogger John Keenan-Mudrick said...

Thank you for your article touching linkages between Architecture and Music of various genres. I am interested as a musician and student of architecture in expressions of the profound harmonies and beautiful lyricism of jazz music in my building designs.
John Keenan-Mudrick


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