Brahm’s General Advice to Composers

Brahm’s General Advice to Composers

November 2, 2013
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This caught my eye last year as I made the rounds on my Tumblr feeds. Of particular interest to this spatial designer was the notion of counterpoint. The implications in design were immediately obvious to me.

Much work is done in the spatial world that we might characterize as “vanilla shell” work. In fact, it went by that term in my first firm. Neutral palettes on the floors, wall and ceilings, waiting for occupants to bring the spaces to life. All well and good, but not my cup of tea. I’m in it for a richer experience. Enter Brahm’s advice.

This particular document refers to musical composition. I am not a musical composer. Thus, such information may be considered dangerous in my hands. So I consulted with the person who posted it and we became fast friends. She and I have been having vigorous discussions about design and music ever since. After a little while talking with Patricia, it became clear that I could use this in design.

This falls under a category of visual themes. Counterpoint poses the question of “what are you trying to say?” What emotional response are you trying to evoke? Go down that rabbit hole and you find yourself in the world of narrative. What’s your story? From there you can begin choosing themes, and from there specific design elements.

But that’s not the whole of it. You can pick a “colonial,” “frontier,” “industrial” theme. Now pick a counterpoint. And watch what happens when you pick something in direct opposition: frontier with high tech; colonial with indigenous; industrial with high tea.

Mix those themes together in a building design and see what happens.

Thank you Patricia for sharing this.

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