A discussion of Xenakis and Varese, metaphor and simile, music and architecture

22 Nov 2011

This paper aims to examine the possible cross pollination between music and architecture through two of the most successful proponents of this translation. Since by its very nature translation involves an interpretation of meaning from one set of symbols into another it has an associated direction – even if the movement of information is only actually seen by the creator. The exemplary figures of Xenakis and Varese illustrate both a shift from architecture into music and from music into architecture. The literary techniques of metaphor and simile become useful to critique this process, and help to explain the very different approaches taken by these two artists. This discussion naturally leads itself to be split into three unequal sections – that of Xenakis’ and Varese’s work, that of their work in terms of metaphor and simile in music and that of their work in terms of music and architecture. This final section is exemplified by the project that links both artists and provides one of the most interesting fusions of these two disciplines – the Philips Pavilion at the 1958 World Fair.