Architecture and Music

We cannot better specify the sensation produced by music than by identifying it with that which the contemplation of architectural forms provokes in us.

Goethe understood this well when he said that architecture is petrified music.

Igor Stravinsky


Certainly it is easier to destroy than to build …

                                               Ibn Battuta


Whatever the origin of the chosen name for Fes, from the gold and silver pickaxe (in Arabic سفأ  Fä’s) spoken of by Ibn Abi Zar that was used by Idriss I to strike the foundations of the city, or perhaps from the Berber asafi (meaning right bank) for the Almoravids uniting two settlements within the same walls; and whatever might be the chosen viewpoint – facing the ramparts or lost in the labyrinthine alleyways of the medina, in interior gardens or in the shadow of palaces, the city of Fes seems to tell us a story of foundations, walls and buildings, an architectural dream that carries us away and loses us in three-dimensional lines and curves. The geometry of the buildings, the calligraphy and the arabesques of ornamentation, the architecture of the historic city can be described in two words that also define music: form and ornament.

Everything in music is a story of architecture, of form and ornament; all is a question of constructions, lines, solids, voids, superpositions, heights. Music inscribes in time that which architecture inscribes in space, both of them concerned with correct proportions, geometry, physics, harmony, mathematics and all the spirituality contained in the word aesthetic, the aesthesis of the ancient Greeks, both sensation and feeling. Even the idea of the maqâm, linked to the melodic scale and common to the great musical pieces found from North Africa to Central Asia, originally meant a building, a place where music was played.

Therefore, with this in mind, and taking into consideration the possibilities offered by sacred music – and by musical sacredness – found from Morocco to Asia via Africa, and bathing in the Mediterranean that has for centuries linked East and West, we have constructed this programme, fashioned from architecture and spirituality in music. We have been always mindful of the need to offer the public a musical feast worthy of this ‘Zaouia of Fes’ that, according to the traveller Ibn Battuta who left Morocco to admire ‘the splendours of cities’ and returned, 120 000km later, ‘has no equal in the whole universe, for the pleasantness of its situation, the beauty of its construction and its ornaments’.


Bruno Messina

Artistic Director