Music is liquid architecture  

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"Music is liquid architecture; Architecture is frozen music" is a dictum (or two dicta) often attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

The dictum needs to be split in two parts.

First, "Architecture is frozen music"[1] is variously attributed to Goethe and Friedrich Schiller (Conversations with Goethe in the Last Years of His Life) and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (Philosophie der Kunst).

The second dictum, "Music is liquid architecture" is attributed by Edward Howard Griggs to Robert Browning (in his poem "Abt Vogler") and to John Ruskin. As of 2015, this attribution seems to be spurious.

"Browning, with his delight in giving a fresh turn to an old thought, reverses the comparison, and to him, in Abt Vogler, music is liquid architecture, flowing forth into its many-domed, myriad-spired temple of sound as inevitably as the legendary palace of Solomon, built magically "to pleasure the princess he loved." The comparison either way is illuminating because it rests in a profound truth. Thus the characteristic difference in appeal between the arts portraying statical forms in space, and those dealing with dynamic forms in time, will best appear if first we compare architecture and music in their respective effects." --Philosophy of Art by Edward Howard Griggs[2]

This architectural metaphor soon attained the status of a cliché (“should one perhaps speak of ruins as a 'frozen cadenza?, said Schopenhauer in "The Metaphysics of Music"[3]).


Of both architecture and music can be said that they represent nothing. As Jacques Herzog has said, "A building is a building. It cannot be read like a book. It doesn’t have any credits, subtitles or labels like a picture in a gallery. In that sense, we are absolutely anti-representational. The strength of our buildings is the immediate, visceral impact they have on a visitor."[4]

See also

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