Freemasonry: Is Architecture Frozen Music?

Freemasonry: Is Architecture Frozen Music?

At the end of a recent Scottish Rite workshop, and after one of the most incredible weeks of my life, I felt inspired and nourished with the treasures that only the craft of Freemasonry can offer. I jumped in the car and set off on my long drive home. My thoughts were tuned to philosophy, art, and music. I contemplated how a beautiful masonic temple is a work of art, a finely tuned instrument, a Stradivarius if you like. I had just been a part of something special; freemasonry, philosophy and art teaming up together in my world for the love of beauty.

So far so good.

But then the quote, supposedly of Goethe, crossed my mind, “Architecture is frozen music.”

Now, I like Goethe very much. He was certainly a profound thinker, contrasting the way architecture and music impact our minds. He gives you a sense of what is greater than ourselves, what transcends our lives. I appreciate the philosophical perspective. But, at the time I was thinking with my snobbish musical mind that he got this one terribly wrong.

What about the reverse? If architecture is frozen music, does that mean music is liquid architecture?

Tomar knights templarYou certainly wouldn’t say that musical notes written on a piece of paper is a complete definition of music. Of course not! A written melody is perhaps one of the necessary components for a musical experience. But we also need a musician who can read the notes and have the skill to perform on an instrument. We need an occasion for this music to be played. Don’t forget we need those listeners who can undergo the musical experience. All these factors come together in a synergistic manner to make up what we might call music.

Are you telling me that music is liquid architecture?

I don’t buy it. Music is a complicated affair needing a host of ingredients working merrily together to transport us into a state of musical rapture. Is Goethe telling me that architecture requires all this movement to be frozen still? How could Goethe be so wrong?

What Goethe really said

Well, as it turns out Goethe’s analogy between architecture and music actually extends much further. A little bit of research revealed to me that the popular cliché has become distorted over time.  “Frozen music” might even be the most misleading definition of architecture around.

Goethe definitely said this in Conversations with Eckermann:

“I have found a paper of mine among some others, in which I call architecture ‘petrified music.’ Really there is something in this; the tone of mind produced by architecture approaches the effect of music.”

What I think is the most important part of this statement is that Goethe was suggesting that architecture produces the same “tone” or effect in your mind as music.  The point he is making is about the mind.

Let me expand on my interpretation of his philosophy.  If this is an act of arrogance then I apologize, but for all my love of Goethe, my loyalty is to truth and art.

1200px-Music_lesson_Staatliche_Antikensammlungen_2421Goethe’s idea suggests something about the creative process of the mind and the human need to express something.  What would a building sound like if the architect had been a composer?  He would be using vibrations as the medium of expression instead of lines and shapes. It could be said that the musician “composes” using vibrations, the scientist “invents” with formulas, the painter “paints” with color and design, and so on. A thought-form is created. There is a universal theme of mental expression underscoring all creative disciplines.

It is the special skill of the creative worker and the space in which they create that causes a living architecture.  These factors make the air molecules vibrate in such a way that this soup of pulsating molecules works upon our minds, even after the creative worker has completed his architecture.  We might call it a thought-form, a musical idea, that continues to exist.  

Freemasonry: The Creative Workshop

Freemasons are always looking for connections between music, architecture, geometry, proportion, and how such tools can be used to transform society. Music doesn’t use windows or columns and architecture doesn’t use melodies or notes. For most of us such obvious differences would seem to eliminate any possible similarity between them. But wait! If we use the idea that any artistic expression is a creative process of mind then we get a very different picture. 

St. Thomas Aquinas has said:

“Music is the exaltation of the mind derived from things eternal, bursting forth in sound.”

finalstairway-to-heaven-chords (3)How can a Freemason achieve that exaltation of the mind? I have a couple thoughts on this. First, there is an acceptance of the possibility of a more evolved world, and second there is an experience of a change in our state of being as we become aware of that better world. 

Temples and buildings of great architecture are designed to build a bridge between this world and that. There is something musical that pulsates and glows inside them, inside the architecture, some dancing molecules that converge as a product of all the thoughtful labor that has been conducted until that point in time.

I should point out that in a masonic temple there are no blurred boundaries between participant and observer. Everyone has an active role in building the edifice. 

Architecture. Music. And the relationship between them is….? I’m not sure, but the obvious thing that springs into my mind is that the experience of a beautiful building might in some ways equate with the experience of a beautiful piece of music. The architecture inside the Lodge inspires the Freemason outside the lodge to become a better Master Craftsman in the mighty workshop of the Lord. 

Each Mason must be a builder; he is a workman under the direction of a Great Architect, who is planning a marvelous edifice, which is the Grand Lodge above, the perfect universe. To the building of this perfect edifice, each Mason must bring his stone, his perfect ashlar, perfect because it has been tested and proved true by the plumb, by the level and by the square.”

~ Brother C. Jinarajadasa, Ideals of Freemasonry

Mozart: A Freemason Inspired by the Craft

Mozart: A Freemason Inspired by the Craft

A few years ago, I spent a great deal of time researching Mozart’s life and especially his affiliations with Freemasonry. We know much about Mozart because there are many letters that have been preserved in the archives. As I poured over these amazing documents, I learned a lot about history. But it especially got me thinking about how the themes of freemasonry affected his musical style. After he became a Freemason, his tools of making music evolved into something completely different.

Do the ideals of Freemasonry inspire an artist?

We know the craft attracts many men and women from all walks of life. They not only change and shape their Lodge but the world around them. Mozart, a prolific musician and a Freemason was a mover and shaker of his time. He left his mark on the world with more than 600 works in a great range of genres. There are so many timeless lessons from his character, his creative process and his music that we can learn from.

At around five years old, he wrote his first composition, a Minuet and Trio in G major, listed as K 1. He eventually made it all the way up to K 626, his Requiem.  Mozart possessed the outstanding ability for “photographing” everything that he heard. He could attend a concert and later write down the full composition of the concert. In one of Mozart’s letters to his father about Prelude and Fugue in C (K 394), Mozart writes:

6062034280_3a832f5073_zI composed the fugue first and wrote it down while I was thinking out the prelude.

His genius was unquestionable.  However, we don’t really know what inspired him. Where did his inspiration come from? What is inspiration, anyway?  When we break apart the word “inspired,” we find it comes from two words “in” and “spirit.” The word literally means “in spirit.” In other words, when you are inspired by something, it means that you are living in spirit or in more masonic terms, “on the plumb.”

Just how important was the tie to freemasonry with his inspiration?

The Fraternity

Mozart knocked on the door of Freemasonry in 1784. Being twenty-eight years old, the enlightenment was a glorious time for this young lad. The setting was revolutionary. Humanity stood on the threshold of a new era. Composers and musicians would no longer be viewed as mere servants, but as craftsmen in their own right.

In an excellent book by Paul Nettl called Mozart and Masonry, he remarks:

What led him to Masonry was the reflection and self- contemplation which followed his extensive wandering, and this also brought about the creation of his unique style.

Mozart_in_lodge,_ViennaMembership in the Royal Art for Mozart was not an impulsive act. He attended his Lodge regularly, advanced in the degrees and had many friends through his connections with the Lodge.

There is something very crucial to understand that relates to all this. Years and years of hard labor gave him a solid foundation to take his music to the next level. He labored incredibly hard, up at 5 am in the morning and often burned the midnight oil. He always pushed for something unique as a true gift to humanity, introducing his own shade of meaning into whatever he touched.

It would seem that the disciplines of Freemasonry inspired him greatly.  No?

Masonic Music

Mozart wrote a staggering amount of music considering his short years. It must be acknowledged that being controversial didn’t stop him. His music wasn’t appreciated by everyone – not even close. He was willing to put himself out there, especially with his masonic music. What exactly constitutes Mozart’s masonic music?

Music scholars say that Mozart’s “masonic” music generally falls into three categories.

  1. Masonic in nature, obviously written for Lodge occasions.
  2. Masonic in spirit, but not written specifically to be performed in a lodge.
  3. Written for other purposes, but adapted for use in lodge.

For example, the famous Clarinet Concerto in A Major (K 622) falls into the third category.  Although not written for a Lodge occasion, he composed it for Anton Stadler, a member of his Lodge, who he shared the utmost of fidelity. Whenever he wrote as a token of friendship, he would add a different nuance depending on what the music was for. It was his gift. His wide circle of Lodge brothers inspired him greatly. 3353349312_d6aa1254bc_z (1)

Most artists have admitted that they require the aid of inspiration to accomplish their work. Etienne Gibson, French philosopher,  in Choir of Muses tells how music composer Sibelius describes an inspired experience:

When the final shape of our work depends on forces more powerful than ourselves, we can later give reasons for this passage or that, but taking it as a whole one is merely an instrument. The power driving us is that marvelous logic which governs a work of art. Let us call it God.

I believe that Sibelius is speaking of a different kind of inspiration, one that comes from still Higher Sources, the Great Architect of the Universe.  Music is so abstract at times it gives you infinite ways to contact the Divine.

After his death, the Freemasons held a Lodge of Sorrows in Mozart’s memory, and the oration there delivered was printed by Ignez Alberti, a member of Mozart’s own Lodge.

An excerpt follows:

Though it is proper to recall his achievements as an artist, let us not forget to honor his noble heart.  He was a zealous member of our order.  His love for his brothers, his cooperative and affirmative nature, his charity, his deep joy whenever he could serve one of his brethren with special talents, these were his great qualities.  He was a husband and father, a friend to his friends and a brother to his brothers…

Every so often when I’m lazing about, it makes me incredibly motivated to think about these histories from classical composers like Mozart.  Sadly, we may never know what inspired Mozart. The composer’s intentions remain unknowable. I have to say the sheer intensity of his life does suggest something exceptional. Something inspired by the craft.