Virtual Architecture as Frozen Music: An Interpretation of Yo Yo Ma's, 'The Sound of the Carceri'

Dr. Rebecca Dalvesco
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The presentation will discuss the cellist Yo Yo Ma's video-recording The Sound of the Carceri. Yo Yo Ma plays Bach's Suite No. 2 while sitting in a computer-generated three-dimensional simulation of Piranesi's eighteenth century images of the Carceri. To inquire whether architecture is or is not frozen music is to analyze architecture as art and philosophy. The philosopher A.W. Schlegel proposed a unification of the arts which he wrote in the Athenäum. Later, others such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Oscar Wilde, and Geoffrey Scott were also to use the metaphor that architecture is frozen music. However, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in his book Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry (1776), rejected the contemporary manner of transferring aesthetic principles from one artistic discipline to another. As the music theorist Peter Kivy notes, there has been an ancient argument in the 'philosophy of music' between the 'musical cognitivists' and 'musical emotivists.' Yo Yo Ma falls in between these two types of philosophies of music.

When analyzing the work of Yo Yo Ma and his philosophy of music and its relationship to virtual architecture, it is pertinent to not only use theories that range from Classical to the eighteenth through the nineteenth centuries, but also to use twentieth century theories and philosophies to discuss such issues as how virtual architecture may obtain similarities to music. Yo Yo Ma believes that music and architecture share commonalities in such concepts as tension, space, proportion, and material and that he can experience architecture through perceptions and imagining, creating, an 'audio virtual reality.' Computer generated images of architecture, especially Piranesi's Carceri as exemplified in the video-recording, may be seen as having similarities to musical constructions. However, the metaphor may not be frozen music because music is in constant flux as architecture may be.

Keywords: Virtual Architecture, Yo Yo Ma, Piranesi's Carceri, Architecture as Music
Stream: Aesthetics, Design
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Rebecca Dalvesco

Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects, The Art Institute of Chicago

Dr. Rebecca Dalvesco obtained her doctorate in architectural history, theory, and criticism from Arizona State University, May 2004. She also has a Master of Science degree in industrial design history, theory, and criticism. She has published numerous essays on film, industrial design, interior architecture, and architecture. Her recent work includes encyclopedia entries published in The Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Architecture, Editor R. Stephen Sennott (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers), on Richard Buckminster Fuller; Moshe Safdie; Sverre Fehn's glacier museum in Fjaerland, Norway; Arcosanti, Arizona, and Norwegian Architecture. In 2002 she published a book, Fuller Speak, pertaining to the designer-philosopher Richard Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Vehicles prototyped during the 1930s and Fuller's language. In 2001 an essay "Architecture in Motion: the Interior Design of Skylab," written for The Art Institute of Chicago, appears in Building for Space Travel. She currently teaches architectural and design history and theory at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Ref: H06P0151