The Space Defines The Style

Apr 19 2013

Consider this, if you will: A grand gothic cathedral. These towering feats of Opus Francigenum with their vertically, emphatic arches and cavernous spaces. These same spaces, while being immensely detailed in their decoration, are also immensely reverberant. The nature of the space will cause notes to hang around in the air much longer than they should. This is the space for plainsong and liturgies of chant and modal harmonic structures. But what happens when you put a rock band in that environment?

I’m reading…well listening to an audiobook called “How Music Works” by David Byrne. There’s so much gold in this book, but the practical lessons to be learnt are more hidden. Much like the afore mentioned precious metal; lessons sometimes need to be extracted from the raw materials. Something for which I fear our current generation’s thinking has far too heavily discounted. We are so used to instant everything, that we believe that learning and knowledge are “instants” too. One of the lessons you may extract from this book is a very practical understanding of Venue dictates Creation or The Space defines the Style.

Let’s go back to our gothic cathedral. If you play highly rhythmic music, as is what happens when you introduce a drummer, it will get bounced around the venue in a chaotic display of sound wave acrobatics. And if you play music where the melodies and harmonies move around a fair bit, you will encounter this collision of sound that results in mid to alarming amounts of dissonance. Venue plays a massive part in determining what it will allow and what it won’t allow to be played within its four walls. Tease this idea out and you can see why arena rock is great in arenas. And why it wouldn’t work well in a venue like Carnegie Hall. Or…It will work, but only just and not in a preferable fashion.

Let’s study this in the context of our musical environments. How do our venues of music inspire our creation? Are we crafting arrangements that suit the coffee house or the chapel?

We have a venue at the Hills Campus that is a sandstone chapel. This is quite a different venue from our more commonly used Convention Centre Auditorium. As a result our thinking on arrangement, style, what type of instruments to be played and other musical variables must be carefully considered so that we serve the venue, serve the style and serve the people, in that we provide the most seamless, well-fitted experience. This is so that the music can take a back seat to the purpose for having music.

How about you? How are you using the venues you have been entrusted with to make appropriate musical choices? It’s my hope that in the consideration of this, you really start to craft arrangements and a musical experience that seems to be at peace within your context, be it an auditorium, a school gym or a gothic cathedral. And that in those places, we continue to create music that lifts peoples’ attention to the Giver of all good things.



David Andrew