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Architect Paul Bavister and his work with Musicity

Paul Bavister from architectural firm Flanagan Lawrence outlines his work with Musicity to help develop the creative response of the commissioned artists to various spaces.

Background

The design of spaces for listening has not, historically, been a linear process. For thousands of years, built architecture and musical repertoire have formed a coexistent symbiosis, each factor informing the other, leading to constantly evolving developments in architectural design and musical composition. This process was consolidated and largely halted by a number of factors; the development of ‘precedent musical spaces’ in the 1940’s; the ‘chamber hall’ and the symphony hall’ etc. and technological advances in music production and propagation, which commenced with the development of radio and the phonograph, where ‘space’ was synthetically added to recordings via electronic reverberation, effectively severing the relationship between music and architecture.

Methodology

To challenge this creative impasse, a series of compositions from new and interesting artists have been commissioned that will are directly related to specific sites in Southwark.

A series of sites have been visited, with selected musicians, and acoustic data has been taken from each, by way of a simple acoustic test. This test gives us key data on the acoustic performance of each site, in terms of reverberation, clarity, early decay time etc. This information was then discussed with a musician in more ‘qualitative’ terms, siting the process of writing music within the sonic constraints of the site itself. This process manifests itself in the resultant composition, so spaces with longer reverberation times being better suited to long held tones than sharp rapid percussive music for example.

This results in a unique site specific work, utilising the acoustic qualities of a given space. This process not only creates a relinking of the relationship between music and architecture, but also a series of very special performances by new and exciting musicians, giving clues to how best to use spaces in the region for more future public use.

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