Sensuality and Proportion
A primer in sound for architects.


One does not contrive an accident: one observes it ... An accident is perhaps the only thing that really inspires us... It is the same problem that was posed in the Middle ages by the theologians of pure love. ... one cannot force someone to love... To understand in order to love, to love in order to understand: we are here not going round in a vicious circle, we are rising spirally, providing we have made an initial effort, have even just gone through a routine exercise.

Stravinsky [The Poetics of Music Harvard 1942 p55]

Chaos -- comes from the Greek verb stem kha- meaning to yawn or gape. To say it is to yawn. Kaos in Greek or chaos in Latin comes to mean: 'a vast gulf or chasm, the nether abyss, empty space, the first sate of the universe, the 'formless void' of primordial matter, the abyss out of which the cosmos or order of the universe was evolved.' [1]

A state of matter and will above all pregnant with possibilities. An inward-drawing breath. What Aristotle would call potential sound, about to be played. One might say noisy, impenetrable, not yet formed.

It's a deeply resonant word which takes us into the cave of the unknown and the always-possible. In Greek mythology, Kaos is the first of all the gods, or the first condition of creation. In Hebrew, God's first act of creation was to breathe over the formless tohu-bohu and set it quivering. Milton [1667] speaks of chaos and night as the 'eternal anarchy, ancestors of nature'. Acoustically one might say it is the sound of what we are about to know.

Consider for example the trickle of water underneath a canopy of leaves in steady rainfall. The rain is going to drip through the canopy, but we cannot know where and how each drip forms on each leaf and how the drips bounce to the ground. What was a steady drizzle of rain becomes a series of unpredictable events. Listening teaches this.

[1] [OED]

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©Marcus Beale 2002, 2008

Sensuality and Proportion
A primer in sound for architects.