Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hearing the World Differently?

Here's a long article on how it is so much modern architecture can seem weird to the layman, the people actually using it. For me it seems a perfect analog to a lot of "modern" music. Here are the first two paragraphs:

Have you ever looked at a bizarre building design and wondered, “What were the architects thinking?” Have you looked at a supposedly “ecological” industrial-looking building, and questioned how it could be truly ecological? Or have you simply felt frustrated by a building that made you uncomfortable, or felt anger when a beautiful old building was razed and replaced with a contemporary eyesore? You might be forgiven for thinking “these architects must be blind!” New research shows that in a real sense, you might actually be right.

Environmental psychologists have long known about this widespread and puzzling phenomenon. Laboratory results show conclusively that architects literally see the world differently from non-architects. Not only do architects notice and look for different aspects of the environment than other people; their brains seem to synthesize an understanding of the world that has notable differences from natural reality. Instead of a contextual world of harmonious geometric relationships and connectedness, architects tend to see a world of objects set apart from their contexts, with distinctive, attention-getting qualities.

I've become convinced that most composers of concert band music are really writing for other composers of concert band music more than students and audiences, whether they realize it or not. That also seems true of most of the atonal effusions of academia we got in the 20th century.

From time to time I've used the phrase "theory mind" to describe the type of musician/composer who can tell you instantly that they're hearing an augmented chord with a flat ninth in second inversion. They simply hear and process music differently from regular people. The music they write and play can work for them and others like them, but not for average people.

Here's another paragraph further down in the article:

Our colleague Jaap Dawson recently reinforced this idea in telling us of his teaching experience:
“The unconscious rules us, however hard we try to become conscious of a little bit of our lives. What I’ve also discovered in working with students the last 27 years is that they pick up the design rules of Modernism very quickly—without consulting their own experience of buildings or spaces. And if you look at those rules, then you simply have to conclude something else: in order to follow them, you need to know the normal, vernacular, classical, archetypal language of building. If you know that language, then you simply do its opposite in order to get Modernism. My conclusion: awareness of the timeless language is present in people, but they learn to suppress it. But there’s something underneath groupthink, I think; and that’s a fear of trusting your own experience—in body and soul—of buildings and spaces. Any child trusts that experience.”

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