Spatial Listening

Never underestimate the power of music. I came across this comment on youtube from a viewer listening to Philip Glass’s violin concerto no.1, it is really an emotional piece. I think even for people who consider themselves unable to underestand music, i.e. can’t play any instruments or read music, yet there is something about music, or certain sounds, which either alone or when pieced together can have a powerful effect on you.

He says, “This is everything I have ever felt, everything I have ever seen. It is everything divine & precious the Earth holds dear. It is every war, every love lost, every sentient suffering & every birth. As large as passing history since the beginning to the first angel white crocus flowering in spring. It is the doom of climate change & the crash of the pure steel blue tide. The swoon of a bird down the cliff it rides, and our last sunset when we are old. All that is done and all yet to do.”

Another viewer commented how he wants to ‘live inside this music’.

This is precisely one of the key questions from my design studio this semester which is : “What is it to be inside a sound?”

The second key question is: How can the compositional craft, techniques and strategies of architectural design, facilitate an unimpeded auditory concentration on spatial listening?

The studio I am taking is emphasizing the aural over the visual approach to architecture – titled ‘The craft of spatial listening.’ This is an aspect that is often overlooked in architecture, or not considered at all. Have you ever wondered how spaces sound like? How would a blind person experience a space? This is not concerned with acoustic engineering or calculation of decibels, it is a more abstract sensorial and experiential approach. It is something various people have elaborated on such as Peter Zumthor and Juhani Pallasmaa as well as Barry Blesser describing ‘aural architecture’ in Spaces Speak, are you listening? But the field itself specifically dealing with sound and architecture is still very new and unexplored, there is not much you can find on the internet, and this is what makes my studio so exciting this semester. Music (+ sounds in general) and architecture have often been linked together, both have structure, rhythm, etc etc but how exactly can architecture benefit from the study and consideration of sound?  I hope to share with you my findings and the final product when the time comes. Happy Easter all!

You can listen to the piece by Philip Glass here:



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