If music were architecture

I was spending an entire academic semester spanning thirteen to fourteen weeks on a course module called ‘Theories of Architecture and Urbanism’ and have come to realise just how much architecture gravely transcended the rules of society. Architecture have adopted and adapted through the times and changes of people and culture; and that people have too embraced architectural avant-grande. Modernism, post-modernism, phenomenology, semiotics, post-structuralism, feminism and gender are all these specific 20th century movements and theories that have contributed into what we have today – and have been an integral part of the process into shaping the world we now live in.

Upon the notion of subjectivity, architecture is a broad context without a definitive confinement, like art, it shares a common ground of generalisation and allows for loopholes to be filled with personal perceptions. In the context of modernism for example, where Le Corbusier has mentioned that the duplication of plan and the embracement of engineering geniuses into the architectural world have resulted in minimalistic modernist designs, but the ambiguity lurches onto the extent of tolerance your perception tells you to accommodate the level of adjunction to truly classify a building as a ‘modernist’ or a post-modernist’. If I were to tell you Norman Foster is a modernist where he conforms to addressing spaces with the audacious use of structurally-engineered components whilst achieving visual harmony, it will fuse the argument that because he does not conform to the modernist ideas, that he is for example, environmentally-senstive, would not be rightly part of the modernist’ beliefs of being radicle to the context. That gray area of trying to compromise with personal perceptions exploit the human’s ability to rationalise and reason, but in the end of the day, is there an end to rationalising and reasoning? Of course, these gray areas are often occupied, like the modernist’s instance, sub-genres in the form of brutalists, minimalists, monumentalists etc try to bridge the gap of ambivalence between ‘modernist’ and ‘post-modernist’.

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Lord Norman Foster : a modernist or a post-modernist?

Popular music today is eccentric. Popular artists today like Lady Gaga, Kanye West or Coldplay can no longer be bounded by a particular genre, otherwise they would be wiped out for not maintaining relevance to the ever-changing popular music scene. Therefore, they experiment. They be avant-garde. And if they are successful, they become trend-setters for lesser known artists to follow, and the cycle continues; they continue to experiment and find things that can make them relevant. And by the time their experimentation completes its cycle, the artists who have emerged from the influences of these avant-garde artists, would need to innovate, otherwise they would be engulfed into a dying trend. There are many notable contemporary examples where the revival of punk rock in the 90s by pioneers such as Rancid and Green Day have lead to a mass following of bands like Less Than Jake, Blink-182 and Sum41, that when the punk trend began to subside, generated many dying breeds of punk rock musicians. The ones who have survived this change had to embrace, accept and innovate newer ways to penetrate themselves into the mainstream. There was also a period where folk and country music gained sudden popularity, just as electronic and hip-hop did. So, in order to keep up with modern pop-music demands, artists would begin to diverge and stray further away from their genre to experiment with the potential of their instrumental or vocal abilities. The end-product of this experimentation from a collection of artists would gradually find itself to be a socially-approved sub-genre – just like architecture.

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Green Day : retained in the mainstream through evolution

In the case of rock music, the roots began with strong influences from blues and folk music, eventually finding its way into the sounds of Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Chuck Berry. In the context of architecture, they are the modernists. They were trying to eradicate and distort the public’s conception of blues, folk and jazz music into something people have never heard before. The fundamentals of a rock band consist of vocals, guitars, bass and drums; as rock music evolved into a heavier brand of sounds with notable likes of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, they tried to emulate the roots of rock music (blues and folk) through the enhancement of the then-new-found rock music elements. They are the post-modernists; they corrupt the understanding of people towards blues and folk music by inducting a rock-fusion approach into making their music. Then came arenas and festival music events because people felt that they needed to get in touch and personal with their icons. Thus, bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple emerged to accommodate the mass public interest of wanting to come to stadiums to listen to their music. They are the phenomenologists. Then came KISS, Black Sabbath and Queen, all of whom which began to elevate mainstream pop-rock music to a new level of branding and image. All of them had a distinctive look, a public persona, that makes them unmistakable. These musicians were semiologists. Subsequently, bands like The Smith, The Cure and R.E.M. surfaced with a higher level of aggression, conflict, dislocation and fragmentation. They fondle with the elements of rock music and disarray them into a new wave of pop-rock music. They are the deconstructionists.

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KISS : A monumental public image of rock’n’roll

As rock music began to mature, its boundaries began to stretch to a breaking point. More and more generic rock bands, particularly in the 80s began to mark the downfall of a generation. This was the period which in my opinion, was the most innovative era for rock music. Many sub-genres have came out during rock music’s decline to introduce newer, more creative sounds into pop-radio. The likes of glam rock, punk rock, country rock, synthpop, grunge, nu-metal, indie etc have injected a new breed of pop-musicians into the music scene. After that, even newer sounds began to burst into popular radio with pop-punk, new-wave, emo, electronic, dance-rock etc. These sub-genres have came about just like how architectural movements needed linkages between them. For instance, Frank Gehry is probably the in-between of Daniel Libeskind and Steven Holl of architecture, as to how grunge was the in-between of metal and indie.

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Linkin Park : bridging the gap between hip-hop and metal.

I was inspired to write about this after watching this clip of David Bryne talking about the relationship between architecture and music. He believes that the sound quality of music have been progressing together with the world of architecture.

Architecture is something that occurs all the time around us, hence, it will pose as a strong relation to our everyday lives. I believe the association with music is just one of the many things that has a co-relation with architecture. So, the next time you blare a song through the stereos, you would probably want to start thinking architecture.
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