Deconstructivist Music

May 20, 2012

When I first heard about deconstructivism in architecture, I immediately correlated it with music. This isn’t something I do often with architecture or any art. I don’t consider Van Gogh’s The Night Cafe to be complimentary to any particular song, nor do I think Mies van der Rohe & Company’s modernism could be themed with a genre of music. But the reversal of expectations that makes deconstructivist buildings explode in form recalled something I’d not seen, but heard, before.

Deconstructivism is an aesthetic in architecture that fragments the building into starkly distinct elements that make it up. It distorts the expectation of a typical building by folding it, exploding it, flipping it inside-out, breaking it apart, etc.

Let me be more specific about the buildings in which I saw a connection with music. It was the Jewish Museum in Berlin by Daniel Libeskind that triggered a kind of synesthesia in me, reminding me of certain songs which can’t be replicated. Before I found the works of Lebbeus Woods I thought Libeskind to be the best example of violent architecture–I didn’t get the same violent sense from Frank Gehry or Peter Eisenman. After reading more about him I now think Libeskind is more of a newfangled avant-garde architect.

Denver Art Museum, Daniel Libeskind.

Jewish Museum, Daniel Libeskind.

Initially, however, Libeskind’s buildings struck me. It wasn’t just the sharp angles of the buildings, but how they came into conflict to compose a darky active structure. The buildings seemed to fall apart and yet they were in unity. They struck me like the unpredictable, irrepressible vigor of The Chariot. Listen to The Chariot’s song “Never I” and notice how the drums and guitar riffs move between balance and imbalance. This is what gives them a distinctive sound: their music sounds like it’s falling apart at the seams and punching you in the gut. Listening to just any rough song doesn’t have the same effect because its lacking the unpredictable off-beats and discords that make The Chariot the abrasive and violently living music it is. Like deconstructivist architecture, it uses imbalance in harmony and rhythm to give it a fragmented sound.

The song “Icky Thump” by the White Stripes also fits the description for what I now call deconstructivist music. The beat maintains a steady pace while the bagpipes play wildly off and on. They fall off the preditability of the rhythm, acting as a foil to the drums. Meanwhile, the weighted guitar riffs fall between the intersices of the drums. Like The Chariot’s music, “Icky Thump” has a madness to it expressed in deconstruction.

I would even consider The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” to be deconstructivist near the end. The different tones and contrasting rhythms between the drums and the siren-like sound produce intentional discord, making different layers of the song sound seperated. You can hear the different melodies or rhythms of a song pulling apart when both are unified and one begins taking a slower or faster pace or a less complimentary key. It’s like two people swinging on a swing set in unison, with one then slowing down slightly until the point where, when one is at the peak of her swing, the other is only halfway there.

When an aesthetic from one art translates into another art, I don’t know if that happens by intent of a person set out to make an art under a name or if someone is comparing one thing to another. Either way, “deconstructivism” serves as a good term for certain kinds of music–not genres, but a technical difference that results in a whole different feel.

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2 Responses to “Deconstructivist Music”


  1. […] of thought was prompted by a post on The Staggering Ferret  on what he termed Deconstructivist Music .  What he describes parallels something in some historical music that I find very compelling:  […]


  2. Fascinating post.Thank you for following my site.Wishing you success.jalal


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