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Music Shaped by Architecture

A few blog posts ago, Todd from our office wrote an interesting piece about architecture’s influence in set design and film.  In the same way that architectural styles can set the mood for a film and bring the story to life, the architecture of various performance venues can influence the music.

Remember when you used to meet your college buddies at an old bar downtown and you happened to catch a performance of a local band?  It’s poorly lit, ceilings are low, and people are packed closely together.  Sound is poorly distributed and there’s almost no acoustical consideration, but the next day you end up telling your friends about this great “hole in the wall” bar where you saw this awesome band play.  This is because different genres of music are better received in different types of spaces or venues.

dive bar

The Theatre of the Living Arts (TLA) is a concert venue in Philadelphia characterized by excessively loud performances.  This moderately sized venue with black painted walls and ceilings, and an upper balcony hovering close above you help to create a more intimate experience than that of larger venues.  This is where you go to listen to a ska-punk band blast their horns and sing their hearts out, while you try to avoid a collision with a crowd surfer coming up over your right shoulder, if that’s your thing.


They Might Be Giants New Years

Only a mile away, the soaring glass arches of the Kimmel Center house a very different genre of musical performances.  Audiences sitting in the curving multi-tiered balconies absorb the symphonic sounds of the orchestra below.  These curves were designed to represent the outer contours of a violin or cello. Retractable curtains absorb sounds and reduce reverberation, and large canopies above the stage are cladded with sound reflecting panels that can be adjusted to affect the hall’s overall sound.

kimmelcenter 2

kimmel center 1

Musician David Byrne further discusses the relationships between venues and performances, and how architecture plays a role in the evolution of musical styles.  Check out the TED video below…

TED David Byrne