From the Harmony of the Spheres to Spherical Harmonics : The Potential of Wave-Based Morphogenetic Processes for Musical and Architectural Composition
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Architecture is to space what music is to time: this brief sentence summarizes the deep, intriguing and intimate relationship that architecture and music have maintained all along history, especially in the Western world. It also reflects the cosmological roots of this connection, which translates through a number of analogies in several fields (mythology, poetry, science, philosophy...), and which at times explicitly considered music and architecture as terrestrial echoes of the cosmos.
The development of science from XVIIth century on has put a definitive end to the claim of this relationship at revealing anything sensible about the physical world. However, its persistence over more than twenty centuries, along with its regular resurgence in several architectural or musical projects in the last decades, show that its importance does not lie in its precise correspondence with the universe. We postulate that it is one of the forms by which a deep and ancient concern about the conceptual opposition between wave and matter manifests itself ; this opposition, as we know, has played a major role in the emergence and development of contemporary science.
This thesis explores how the current scientific cosmological models, along with the radical changes undergone by the notion of harmonics since Fourier’s and Helmoltz’s seminal works, allow to cast a completely new light on the music/architecture relationship. It opens new paths for design and composition strategies in architecture, with direct transferability to music composition. Developing these strategies, investigating their artistic potential and discussing their theoretical and historical implications is the object of the research.
In the first section, the theoretical basis and historical evolution of the music/architecture connection are presented through an extensive review of literature. The reader is introduced to the analogies that can be established at specific moments in time with ancient and contemporary Western cosmologies. The second section explores the possibility to implement a contemporary music-architecture transposition through a wave-based descriptive model for sounds and material objects. The influence of current cosmological models on this hypothesis will be described, in particular through the possibility, inspired by De Broglie’s wave function, to describe any material object by a set of waves. This exploration led to the idea to produce intricated entities that are not anymore musical or architectural, but that can instead be described as music-architecture dipoles, thus establishing a correspondence between these two fields whose interrelation and cosmological link have the potential to become both deeper and more intimate than in any previous historical attempts.
Through these investigations, it appeared that the constitutive elements of this new correspondance could be assembled to define a new object of study and knowledge, to which we gave the name «Harmonic Connection», and which can be seen as a new and poeticized version of the ancient Harmonies of the Spheres. As opposed to the former ones, it does not presents itself as a scientific model, but rather as an investigation field for exploring the scientific and artistic potential of the relations between architecture, music and cosmology in all of their ramifications.
Our first experiments have largely confirmed the aesthetical and artistic potential of the Harmonic Connection. Examples of objects produced through compositional strategies derived from it are presented. The Point [d’] Origine spectral music composition instrument, which allows a real-time transposition of an architectural monument into musical sequences, is introduced. Developed during the course of the current thesis work, it allowed us to validate the possibility to inverse the opening sentence of this abstract, and of the whole thesis, by implementing an art installation where music deploys in space, rather than in time, thus introducing the new concepts of still music and of scalar musical field. In this installation, music becomes a phenomenon that does not occur as long as the listener stand stills. It is only through his movements and displacements that music sequences are generated. He thus becomes the composer, the interpreter and the audience of his own and unique harmonic trajectories.
The last section is a discussion about the links between these design strategies and current cosmological models. It introduces and discusses a peculiar characteristic of digital spaces, thanks to which the Harmonic Connection can theoretically lead to completely reversible transformations: they can indefinitely transpose back and forth a piece of music into a piece of architecture.