Infoscience

Book Chapter

Counterpoint: The Musical Analogy, Periodicity, and Rural Urban Dynamics

Every thesis calls for its antithesis, and every revolution prompts a counterrevolution—this takes place within the same generation as well as across intergenerational oscillations (Gassett 1958, Sennett 1974). Enlightenment thinkers were critical of the Humanist tradition of analogical thinking—their own encyclopedic enthusiasm was intent upon creating a lexicon of the world, an ambition that has been assiduously realized in contemporary Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and empirical attitudes toward industrial agriculture and managerial urbanization. However, languages are comprised of two parts—a lexicon and grammar—and analogical thinking, focused as it is on seeing relationships between parts, is particularly well suited to provide conceptual frameworks for contextual design. To harness the power of polemics, we can anticipate that at least two conceptual paradigms, polarities to one another, are needed at any given moment—and that these are best conceived of as, to paraphrase Sébastien Marot, “opposite, but not exclusive of one another” (Marot 2003). Further, as any given analogy will inevitably prompt justifiable reactions against it, I propose that we work between those two oldest and most enduring architectural analogies: the biological analogy (on growth and form) and the musical analogy (on composition and form). Of these, the biological analogy is clearly in ascendancy—see, for example, Philip Steadman’s seminal The Evolution of Designs: The Biological Analogy in Architecture and the Applied Arts (Steadman 1979, 2008) or Lynn Margulis’ The Basic Unit of Life (Margulis 2010). Hence, this sustained reflection on the musical analogy, made with a view to its instrumentality for composing rural urban dynamics in relation to existing landscapes.

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