Books Design Music

Music Analogy

August 12, 2009

beautifulthing: An introduction to design
by Robert Clay

According to research by Geraint Wiggins, “music is a uniquely human trait. Our brains automatically search for patterns in sounds, with different people (automatically differentiating) between different patterns and rhythms from the same constant beat.”

music for headphones

Throughout history, studies have shown that music directly affects our emotions and is also strongly related to movement, such as the gesture of tapping toes or finger snaps. In a visual sense, this is analogous to moving through a building or reading a painting.

Our tendency to recognize patterns, repetitions, and the relationships between (objects) triggered the birth of mathematics — ie. Pythagoras’s discovery of the mathematical relationship between the subdivisions of the length of a piece of string, and the harmonious tones they made when plucked.

The term frozen music (usually attributed to the German philosopher Goethe), or frozen gesture (Gauldie) is often applied to a building’s form and detail. A greek temple provides the simplest explanation… the columns express the main rhythm, the ‘beat of a drum’ or repetition as the observer walks throughout the building, the details of the columns fluting — smaller elements in harmony with the main rhythm.

This analogy with music is more difficult to discern in smaller product designs, nevertheless, a product can be said to demonstrate rhythm, expressed through its main elements and ‘harmonics’ in the detailing.” (Chapter: Composition, pp. 108-9)

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