architects and music

architects and music

For quite a while I’ve noticed a high percentage of architects in the sessions I go to in Bristol, often at least 3, and sometimes as many as 5. Do others have experience of this in their sessions, or perhaps a significant number of players from a particular profession or occupation? I know from my orchestral experience that medical doctors, engineers and scientists, especially physicists and mathematicians, are prominent in orchestras. Is there also something in architecture that attracts people to music?

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Could it be the Dorian Architecture, or keys which inspire them?
We also have an architect on fiddle, and I know another architect who plays fiddle. But there are also a wide range of other occupations represented.

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A sign of the upwardly mobile times- in the 50’s and 60’s, most of the Irish players would have been chippies and brickies.

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All but one of the original line-up of Pink Floyd were architects, I think.

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Architects of their own misfortune!!
The profiles of a lot of session groups (of a certain level) is very akin to a mensa meeting. I think this music attracts a lot of intellectual types if they can get past the boozey atmosphere that comes with it.
A lot of the smartest people I’ve met play trad, I’m sure it’s not coincidence either.
Has anyone done a study of character types that play trad? Certainly on this site most people seem witty, educated and a lot politer than most internet discussion boards.

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I would have thought most session-types are teachers - they are around my parts (so to speak!).

By the way, this architect discussion reminded me of that Frank Zappa comment: “Talking about music is like fishing about architecture”

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Trevor - I agree - certainly, when I played in the Bristol Uni orchestra (some years ago!), there was a high proportion of Maths/Science students, particularly amongst the violin sections.

In current life, a rough sample of the actuarial team I work in reveals a similar picture - lots of musicians of high standard(again particularly violin and/or piano) but a leaning toward classical/orchestral playing. My fellow session players however are of more varied stock - absolutely all walks of life, and it’s great!

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Have to agree with Domhnull that all life is there! An architect turns up quite often as does a managing director, a number of teachers, students, retired people, people politically to the left and centre (can’t think of any right wingers though) plus many that are non-aligned. Despite all this I honestly can’t recall any instances of friction due to this mix of people and it re-inforces my belief in Joe Cooley’s profound statement that “music brings all men to their senses”.

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Echoing the Joe Cooley comment, although I know a good few people doing highly qualified and very responsible work who are musicians, I don’t know any who are “high flying” career types! Different values/priorities?

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Good point Chadmills, I’ve yet to meet one of your entrepeneurs knocking out a few tunes!

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Funny, isn’t it- people you meet playing music don’t usually leap straight away in with that knee-jerk, glass-in-hand, party question- “So, tell me, what do you do?” Very refreshing.
If they did, though, I wonder how many of us would reply with “Well, I used to be an x in y- but then I got a life.”

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No entreprenurial profits in knocking out a few tunes! But a few years ago at one of our regular sessions the pub owner joined in the tunes whenever he could, but then he sold the pub and it became an apartment block 🙁

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P-K, you’re quite right, I too was “an x in y”, but then I got a life when I took early retirement.

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There seems to be a lot of Engineers that are very good trad players as well.

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Well, all I can say is that I’ve never met an architect who played in a barn dance band, which is why most halls have such cr*p access !

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On my travels I’ve met plenty who work in broadcasting (RTÉ and local radio), several medics (at least two of whom are hospital consultants), vets, builders, surveyors, car mechanics, lots of farmers, a dollop of teachers, a couple of librarians, several who make/repair instruments full-time, and at least three - two of whom are very well-known - whose main income derives from property speculation and investment.

Didn’t Séamus Creagh have the best job of all as the postie on Sherkin Island?

In terms of politics, Bannerman’s lucky not to have encountered a certain flute-player from Gorteen or a very well-known Dublin piper.

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Didn’t Bach say that “Mathematics is the music of the mind. Music is the mathematics of the soul”

I’ve always found a high number of mathematically minded souls are also musicians in their spare-time (myself included).

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Interesting there MacCruiskeen, a few differences in Leitrim from Co Gloucs. On the other hand, as others have commented, one of the good things is that you know what instrument people play, what tunes they play, and how they play them, but as for day job, who cares?

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Ditto on the abundance of math geeks (I’m one, too) who are also involved in music. A disproportionate number of my friends from university play instruments or sing, and a few months ago I had a nice chat with a session leader I met out of town - he taught math at the college level, as I once had. We were musing over the disproportionate number of people we knew who were involved in both math and music, when one of the musicians - a math student of the session leader, and a local fiddle champion who played brilliantly - lamented that she was a wretched math student. I pointed out that she knew that a quarter note was twice as long as an eighth note, and damned if that wasn’t more than most of my former college math students knew.

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Anyone wishing to pursue in depth the links between architecture and music should read Paul Valéry’s “Eupalinos, ou L’Architecte”- to be found in English on Abebooks.

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I have never quite understood why there’s such a link between math and music. Do people with a knack for both really sit around doing math puzzles about the music in their head when they are making music? (Ok now it’s 2 to the nth power plus 440hz blah blah blah.)

I always thought music was more like a language. Maybe that’s why I’m not very good at it. Just ordinary. I’m more linguistically-oriented than math-oriented.

But I have taken a Myers-Briggs personality test and came out with “the Architect” personality. So I guess you can count me in as another architect of sorts.

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“I have never quite understood why there’s such a link between math and music.”

For me, part of it is the fact that both are based on simple rules and patterns. I can pick up tunes quickly, and I can often predict what phrases come next, and I can come up with variations pretty easily. So can a lot of non-math geeks, to be sure, but these are skills that I honed as a math student: take a small handful of simple principles and run with them. My teacher often comments that I have an excellent memory, but I really don’t: I’m absent-minded and I always lose track of details. I still can’t remember if I’m supposed to fill out Forms A , B, and C, or Forms B, C, X, and Q when processing an order for widgets at the office. I’m just really good at identifying patterns.

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I can count to four does that mean I’m good at maths? I’m not good at maths at all or sceince for that matter.

But i do have a good enough memory so maybe thats it. I refuse to give details of what i “do” because it irrelevent.

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Re. maths and music see George Perec’s ‘Life, A User’s Manual’.

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I am drawn to the building-block theory of learning tunes- though I’m more of a hod-carrier than an architect.

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“I can count to four does that mean I’m good at maths?”

Better than me, in at least one way: I have a lot more trouble counting to three than I’d like to admit, and when I’m not the one leading a set, I instead just try to make eye contact with the leader when I think we’re about to move onto the next tune. And those tunes where the A or B part is the four bars played twice, so you have to be able to count to four? Those give me such grief.

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Great YouTube clip, Joe!- mathematicians seem a fun lot- are they singing in Irish? 🙂

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A little bit of numeracy skills wouldn’t go amiss at some sessions. I’m sure most of you will have experienced the embarrassing scenario when playing single reels (mentioned above by TD&M) where the first two are played the customary four times but the last one only three and you continue alone for a bar or two!

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I am an Architect and have played since I was a kid. I actually know very few architects who play music. Many claim to enjoy it-particularly opera. I enjoy opera.. However, my major interest is traditional acoustic music…played on real instruments (as opposed to synthezsed c**pola)

Frank Lloyd Wright the famous (some might claim notorious) American architect was a classical pianist I understand. But he also was known as a contrarian.

Having gone through Tech school and business school, I might offer that I have known many more engineers and lawyers (oddly enough) to be musicians.

Stripthewillow’s quote seems to be the best description of the relationship, even though several mathematician freind of mine might disagree. They find bliss at 10 to the minus 29th power.

I’ll stick with my B/C box!

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one two ahhhhhhhhh what comes next??????? 🙂

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I have always loved the sciences and I think it fits very well with music. I have always noticed that it is often science and engineering types who are mostly into playing music. The logical patterns in each are reflective of each other (and much of the structure in music is very mathematical), and the physics of music is a fascinating subject.

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I think one of the grand things about music and playing an instrument is that you don’t need to be especially intelligent or highly educated or good at anything else,all you need is sensitivity to sounds and rhythms,things that children are born with,some manual dexterity and discipline to stay with it,and then perhaps the most important part,honest expression of feeling.A lot of folk music originates from people at the bottom of the social hierarchy,gypsies and tinkers,peasants and craftsmen,and similar folks without any formal education,the debt they are owed ought to be better acknowledged IMHO.

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I’ve always seemed to have noticed a number of teachers around my sessions, but then again, I’m a teacher myself, so maybe that’s all I really notice, or at least make a mental note of. Not even necessarily math teachers, although the one guy is. Couple special ed teachers, a social studies teacher, and probably some others I’m forgetting. Guess the pub is one place where we figure we can safely avoid children after having to deal with them all day 😉

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structure, space, rhythm, tonality, history, context, variation, etc. - all aspects of both architecture and music - i am a professor architecture, and teach music - and there were always two at our sessions here until one moved to &^*!!!! portland, ore.

both music and design tickle the same parts of the brain, cognitively speaking.

so yes, there are reasons for these overlaps… i did a lot of research a few years ago about the relationships between arch. and irish trad - got it published in several places - great way to teach design - by using music.

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Come to think of it. I do know another architect who plays the accordion. Al Yankovic.

He studied architecture at California Polytechic……..

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I never knew a single engineer before I started playing trad music. Now I know four or five. An aeronautics software engineer/fiddle player friend of mine told me he likes playing traditional music as an antidote to all the high-tech stuff he does all day.

Another one (hammered-dulcimer/whistle/etc. player) told me he’s interested in music, math, genealogy and cooking because all of these subjects are never-ending: there’s always more to learn.

I suspect there’s more to it than that. I think it was Duke Ellington who said you can’t explain syncopation; you can only feel it. I agree and disagree --- it can be explained mathematically, but you have to be able to feel it in order to play it. Same goes for the lilt of Irish music, etc. So I think it takes both sides of the brain.

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Some years ago, I took a two year technical degree and I did a course on instrumentation, centered mostly on the oscilloscope. One of labs revolved about the practice of displaying two frequencies simultaneously as an XY pair. The patterns produced by the whole number ratios (the same ratios responsible for the western natural scale) were visually intriguing and compelling. I expect that that math and music are related in ways that can be better experienced by playing music than trying explain the relationship. Flanders and Swan quoted Hegel in saying “Architecture is frozen music”.On some level I believe that music and math are two sides of the same coin.

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To my knowledge, there aren’t many arhitects at the sessions I attend, but the one other architect I do know of is a stellar musician, playing mostly guitar and fiddle these days, but he plays everything, and is a great singer-song writer too. There are some builders too, and a few physicist types as well, and even (gap!) professional musicians. But even among the smaller group of best players, it seems like a really diverse group of folks.

Music, like literature, does have a strong formal quality. Unlike architecture, which exists as a physical object in space, music’s form unfolds only over time (though you could argue that buildings are experienced in pieces, sequentially, over time as well…). Irish dance tunes have repetition, symmetries, and rules (and like architecture, one rule is to break a rule). These structures give it form, and context for endless variation, but there’s an emotional content as well, that can’t be so easily characterized.

One thing that separates architecture from other visual arts is that it has a function beyond the aesthetic; and so does Irish music, if you count dance, and even the social dimension of a session.

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I’ve got to start writng posts in a spell-check-able document first…

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I think the “frozen music” remark is from Goethe. That’s interesting about Pink Floyd and Al Yankovic! I believe the Talking Heads all met as studets at RISD, and one of them has a graduate degree in architecture from Harvard.

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Quote from wolfbird’s post above-
“A lot of folk music originates from people at the bottom of the social hierarchy,gypsies and tinkers,peasants and craftsmen,and similar folks without any formal education,the debt they are owed ought to be better acknowledged IMHO.”
Good call, wolfbird.

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Kilfarboy mentioned in another thread that singer Frank Harte was an architect. This reminded me of noted musician and dancer Michael Tubridy who must also have been an architect or similar as I understand he was heavily involved in the design of the Dublin Airport complex.

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Michael is an engineer, he was also responsible for the restoration of the great telescope in Birr Castle.

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I think it’s easy enough to recognise architects …. just watch out for the funny handshake and that polite question about the health of an elderly relative who passed from this world decades ago 🙂

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from bitter experience i can say that the link between architects and music is tenuous.

the proof is the thought and care that has gone into the refurbishment front of house in theatres such as the liverpool empire…and the lack of those aforementioned qualities in the design and construction of the backstage areas.

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I wonder how much statistical association there really is between amateur musicality and the scientific/mathematical/engineering professions. Is it possible that a lot of the appearance of a correlation is just that these people are noticed as exceptions to a general perception that “techno-nerdy” types aren’t likely to be artistic in any way?

I’ve had that benevolent prejudice applied to me more than once.

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Our session once consisted of an electrical engineer, 3 math Phd students, a geoscientist (myself) and a visual artist… 5 mathies!

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‘I wonder how much statistical association there really is between amateur musicality and the scientific/mathematical/engineering professions.’


well,Bob himself,i have to say that i find this to indeed be the case although i’m aware i can only speak anecdotally here.

it’s certainly my experience to have encountered numerous amateur players-often of a very high calibre too-who are doctors/scientists etc-and they usually tell me that if they were n’t doing their chosen career they would have being doing music in some form at least.

i’ve still to meet an architect though…

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Quote-

"Good architects know about the importance of auditory
signatures and put as much attention into how a building will sound as to how to will look. The architect and musician Daniel Libeskind tests his designs for their acoustic qualities and this is one of the reasons he was chosen as the architect of the new 9/11 memorial in New York."

http://www.materialslibrary.org.uk/SoundofMaterials.pdf

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I would probably anecdotally agree with you, Dave. But, still I wonder…

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‘All art constantly aspires towards the conditions of music’

Walter Pater

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I work in an area with four other guys in the Engineering department. One occasionally tries to whistle a simple kids’ song, but he’s horribly out of tune and gets lost half way through. The guy next to him , when he’s feeling energetic and inspired, will sometimes tap out shave-and-a-haircut on his desk. Over and over. I’ve never heard a hint of music out of the other two. Statistically, these guys easily cancel me out.

One of the scientists down the hall is a folkie singer, the documentation clerk is in a bluegrass band and one of the warehouse guys is an excellent jazz guitar player. The other eighty people in the company are, I suspect, non-musical.

On the other hand, two of my favorite music mates are also engineers.

I wonder what percentage of folks play music. 5%, maybe?

Joke

A man with a violin and another one with a saxophon are waiting for a taxi. Who is the professional musician?

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The taxi driver!

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Not a joke - that’s for real!
A few decades ago one of the major orchestras in the US (can’t remember its name off-hand) went out of business and the musicians had to do jobs like gas station attendants and taxi drivers in order to stay alive. Eventually, the orchestra came back into business and re-engaged most of its former members.

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I qualified as an Architect (just) and my doctor is a first class cellist. I play octave mandolin and banjo, I don’t think the two are related.

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I read somewhere that here in Oz there’s a disproportionate number of successful TV comedians who started out as architects….something to do with their course being so boring that they all join every club and society available at uni….and if that involves alcohol, cross dressing and expressing themselves theatrically or musically……that’s what they do…..and some never make it back!

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Our session once consisted of an electrical engineer, 3 math Phd students, a geoscientist (myself) and a visual artist… 5 mathies!

# Posted on December 5th 2007 by Splendid Isolation

Who were the three math Ph. Ds? And it’s still only “electrical engineer-in-training”!

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And I should add that I’m good friends with at least 5 other engineers, 3+ math/computer science types, and a multitude of other technical types who all play irish music.

Naught better than a weekend away playing music and discussing engineering.

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I’m architect too. (Architecture and visualisation), I Live in Russia and play fiddle&flute.
(Finished piano school.)
If there would be an opportunity to earn anything playing traditional music - i would give up architecture the same minute.
=)