Vitruvius’ resonant vases (addendum)

The term for ‘clarity’, claritas, is probably an equivalent for the Greek term lamprotēs, defined by Aristotle in De audibilibus, implying, besides distinctness, loudness and purity; and the context almost certainly implies a singing rather than a speaking voice. The function of the vases would have been to make some sounds louder than others, and to make them purer by stressing their fundamentals and suppressing their harmonics or overtones. The ‘series of notes which harmonize’ with the voice seems to refer to the fact that each vase would resonate and then re-radiate sound after the voice had ceased singing its fundamental note, so that if the concordant scale were sung, a number of the vases might be heard sounding together. In this way a kind of artificial reverberation time (estimated as 0·2–0·5 seconds) of particular quality would be produced in an open-air theatre that otherwise had none.

Besides bringing a reverberant response into the Greek theatre, it is possible that the acoustic jars helped an unaccompanied singer to keep to proper pitch for long periods. The vases resonating in various parts of the auditorium may also have served to disguise inferior musicianship by giving emphasis to musically important pitches. At the beginning of some early editions of Terence there is a short treatise in which the commentator, whose name is unknown, spoke of brass vases. He assigned to them the same use as Vitruvius […]

K. Harrison: ‘Vitruvius and Acoustic Jars in England during the Middle Ages’, Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, new ser., xv (1967–8), 49–58
C. Gilford: Acoustics for Radio and Television Studios (London, 1972)

Andreas Speiser

‘We have two ways of positing the outside world.

Numbers. Through their effect there is a plurality of individuals: sympathy, order harmony, beauty, etc. […] in short, everything that is of mind.

Space. This gives us objects “having extension”

In the spatial world the images of the numerical world are projected, first by nature itself, then by men and above all by artists. It can be said that our duty on earth and during the whole of our life consists precisely in this projection of forms issued forth from numbers, and that you, the artists, fulfill that moral law to the highest degree. Not only is it possible to appeal simultaneously to geometry and to numbers, but to do so is the true purpose of our life.’

Andreas Speiser

Paolo Soleri – learning a technique as a form of freedom

This is an excerpt from the book The urban ideal, which includes excerpts of conversations with Soleri.

“So over time I developed certain skills: the dosages, for instance, of moisture in the soil so the cement doesn’t crack, and the timing of everything – finishing the form and casting it so that if rain comes, you don’t loose everything. I also learned that when you have mastered a method or a technique for doing something, it gives you lots of freedom, so you have got to try to be disciplined […]”

(p. 33)

Relationships Between Music and Architecture, 5 methods

One of the most interesting lines of thought:

Architecture as a Musical Instrument

The architecture of a musical instrument relies on both materiality and enclosure of a defined space for sound to be able to resonate throughout the body of the instrument. If architecture is seen as a musical instrument, then the sounds that are generated and manipulated within the space becomes a participant in the whole architectural experience. The important factor in this method is acoustics.

For more on this method, please refer to Steen Eiler Rasmussen’s Experiencing Architecture.

More about this proposed classification of the relationships between music and architecture here:


What is the Generative Role for Music in Architecture?

[…] It became clear to me that a ‘critical’ relationship between music and architecture is a highly subjective notion, where different people might view different issues as being critical. For myself, I quickly understood that the lack of a singular critical relationship between music and architecture is likely what drew me to initially connect the two for the purposes of exploring my own creativity. I see endless relationships between the two – many of which seem interesting enough to merit exploration. This project was initially intended to narrow the spectrum of thinking about music and architecture by exploring three compelling relationships and selecting one as the most critical. Now the project is intended to broaden the spectrum of thinking about music and architecture by exploring three compelling relationships, and exciting creative thinking about many more.

I have reformed my initial question to now read, “What is the Generative Role for Music in Architecture?” and have attempted to answer this question through the explorations of my design thesis project. My explorations, and my findings are found on the forthcoming pages.

Cole A. Wycoff, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Volume: writings on Graphic Design, Music, Art, and Culture.

Interesting read by Kenneth Fitzgerald.

“In music, an example of an axis extension was guitar feedback. Classically, this would be considered a “bad sound”. Now, as Jimi Hendrix playing “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock, it’s not an instance of improving the ratio of “signal to noise”. The noise is signal. In graphic design, David Carson is the popular face of an axis extension beyond the modern, commercial standard. Or the extension is a debate point where, depending upon the viewpoint of the self, the Ability channel is pushed to either extreme. Whatever may come about, we will need a critical model that can encompass all possibilities, It needs to be as adaptable as design itself.”

Volume: writings on Graphic Design, Music, Art, and Culture, p. 134.

Peter Greenaway

“The current tools that are available to artists have always been part of the vocabulary of anybody who has anything worthwhile to say… so, I think you are obliged if you are a contemporary artist to use the tools of today, otherwise you’ve admittedly become a fossil ” Peter Greenaway.

Artists’ bio: