Frozen Music, Frozen Space

Since the overwhelming search engine term that leads readers to my blog is Piet Mondrian, I feel somewhat obligated to feature more posts about this painter and his influence. I’ve previously discussed Mondrian’s inspiration in the architectural world here as well as in the interior design and fashion world here.

Did you know he’s also had an influence in the musical world? Since I play piano and enjoy music, I was happy to come across this unique piano designed by Alexander Gorlin when leafing through an old Architectural Digest magazine from 2003.

Doesn’t it resemble this Mondrian painting with its primary colours and rectangular shapes?

Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow

I particularly like the quotation that inspired Alexander Gorlin’s piano he created for an international design competition: “Architecture is frozen music.” Gorlin plays with this idea by designing a piece of musical furniture with sharp lines and bold colours. The piano’s geometrical, rectangular shapes arrest the eye with its deconstructed simplicity. It’s as if this piano is a musical piece in itself that has been temporarily stopped – or frozen – in time and space, like musical notes that are stagnant on paper but come alive when played in the context of a larger song.

Musical notes on a wall in Liverpool, England

Good architecture, like music, is dynamic, pulsating, and moving. You leave a space changed from how you entered it, whether slightly or significantly. You leave a piece of music altered from who you were before you entered its melody. Gorlin’s piano arranges different elements of a song such as rhythm, notes, melody and measures —  represented by the various colours, shapes, and sizes of the piano’s architecture — into one piece. Breaking a musical and architectural piece into its constituent parts, Gorlin paradoxically constructs a deconstructed piano. You can see all the parts that make up the whole; you can see the harmony of form and function.

Speaking of deconstruction of form in architecture, I recall one of my favourite poems about a piano that instigates deconstruction of a different kind. The speaker’s emotional deconstruction or breakdown demonstrates how the effect of a musical text and piece of furniture is anything but frozen.

The Piano

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

By D.H. Lawrence

4 thoughts on “Frozen Music, Frozen Space

  1. Thanks for stopping by Lynn! I think my liberal arts education has certainly helped foster these multiple interests and I like to find ways of connecting them! I enjoy the mix of nature, poetry and art on your site as well.

    • Ah, that makes sense of your considerable gifts, Charlene. A liberal arts education is mistakenly undervalued in today’s job training education mindset, as it teaches one to think widely and deeply and make all of those fascinating connections. Thanks for visiting my blog, much appreciated!

  2. Beautiful post, Charlene.
    Oh, and guess what? The Victoria buses have started putting poems in the advertising slots above the seats. It made me think of you and your last post.

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