Beasts of silence pressed forwards from the clear loosened forest from their nest and den; and it was not in cunning that they came so quiet within themselves, and not in fear but in listening. Shrieking, roaring, braying seemed to wane within their hearts. And wherever a shelter could receive this, even the slightest, a dwelling forged from darkest of desires, with entrance pillars that begin to quiver– there you made them temples in their hearing.
-- Rainer Marie Rilke, The Sonnets to Orpheus
The thunder rumbles, we’ve taken refuge in our tent. And again his face is radiant, peaceful. He uses his watch to calculate meticulously the number of seconds between the brutal bursts of lightning that tear apart the night and the explosions of thunder as they grow closer and closer to us. When the storm is at last directly above our heads he leaves the tent, half-naked; he runs and disappears little by little into this grandiose spectacle of sound and apocalyptic light.
-- Mâkhi Xenakis - Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary
The first passage above describes a world that comes into being through sound. When struck by the hand of Orpheus, the Lyre resonates everything into a vibratory existence. Trees, creatures, rocks, architecture – the biotic and the abiotic – nothing is untouched by the tremors of his making. In this studio we aim to perceive architecture not as frozen music but as vibratory matter. We wish to understand buildings as resonant frames of emplacement in such a world that Rilke conjures: “to make them temples in their hearing”. We wish to investigate the link between deep listening and architectural intuition.
Studio X will explore the intersection of space, music, matter, and vibration. It is from this crossing that the studio gets its X moniker. We also observe that X is phonetically unique in the English alphabet as the only letter that acts as a voiced coronal fricative (“z” sound), and the only hybrid consonant-fricative (“ks” sound). We also borrow the ‘X’ from one of our many muses: Iannis Xenakis. As an engineer, architect, composer, and theoretician, Xenakis remains one of the most compelling polymaths of the 20th century. Underpinning his approach to composition in architecture and music was a near-spiritual engagement with mathematics (geometry and probability in particular) which can be seen in his many charts, notations, and graphs that capture an obsessive quest for a fundamental compositional order that is rigorous, and yet decidedly nonplatonic.
But as evidenced by the introductory quote above (a memory of a family holiday from his daughter Mâkhi) Xenakis was also very much someone who was in the world, and was moved by its forces. He carried physical and psychological scars from a traumatic youth, a visceral experience which he tried to articulate in mathematics and music, as well as in his polytopes: a series of site-specific installations using immersive sound and light. It is because of his ability to work with rational thought and visceral experience, with both abstraction and affect, that we hold Xenakis as Studio X’s prime muse.