January 29, 2014

Music and architecture: Ornament and improvisation

1. Ornament; the ornaments which adorn a thing collectively, or the manner in which something is adorned; a decorative addition, embellishment. (Ornamentation – decorative elements added to something to enhance its appearance)

2. The action or process of ornamenting something; the state of being adorned; a branch of art, craft, etc., which deals especially with ornament.

3. Music. The use of grace notes to embellish a melody; melodic embellishments.

‘The evolution of culture marches with the elimination of ornament from useful objects.’

Adolf Loos, ‘Ornament and Crime’, 1913

Do architects and musicians see ornamentation as a luxury addition or a small but vital element in the construction of a complete structure? Modernist architecture was in part a political movement against the ornamental, the superficial, against excess. Functionalism became an aesthetic mantra as much as an economic one. In music, minimalism tested the boundaries of what needs to be present for ‘music’ to occur.   

Is ornamentation embellishment? Is it a creative act of the performer or architect? Are they decorative or functional? Or does ornamentation defy these categories?

In this workshop we discuss the uses and functions of ornamentation exploring the different purposes and consumptions of aural and visual ornamentation, the changing historical and contemporary use of ornamentation in both music performance and architecture and building design.

This workshop is invite only in order to keep conversation small and focused. Where possible event material will be made available after the workshop.