Terpsichorean Architecture: Guest Editor’s Introduction

Tony Mitchell


‘Writing about music is like dancing about architecture – it’s a really stupid thing to want to do,’ is a statement usually attributed to Elvis Costello in Musician magazine No. 60 (October 1983, 52), which has long been quoted as evidence of the impossibility of writing adequately about the processes of producing and listening to music. Leaving aside the fact that Costello has denied he ever said it, and it has been mistakenly attributed to a number of other musicians over the years, including Laurie Anderson, David Byrne and Frank Zappa (who actually said ‘rock journalism is people who can't write, preparing stories based on interviews with people who can't talk, in order to amuse people who can't read’), this special journal issue sets out to prove the contrary. The papers in this special issue draw on evidence of the volume of important writing that exists about all forms of music, in academic, journalistic and creative fields, and discuss different ways in which music has been ‘translated’ into language. The English jazz writer Paul Savage, for example, describing the music of John Coltrane, refers to ‘a musical monument like that feat of terpsichorean architecture Giant Steps’. And in a 2004 issue of the Architectural Review (vol. 216, August) entitled ‘Terpsichore and the Architects,’ Simon Goldhill notes that in ancient Greek theatre, ‘the chorus danced the architecture of the theatrical space into being’ and ‘the dancer was a storyteller whose body told a story, like a sculpture coming alive or a mobile embodiment of tradition.’ Choreographer Siobhan Davies speaks of the dancer building ‘an inner architecture with volume, texture and rhythm, which allows you to slice up space … Classical ballet and classical architecture share proportion, grandeur, and the idea of being at the centre of the universe … Light and acoustics are very important in dance and architecture: we have to consider how we introduce light to form and how we hear ourselves live in that form.’ This special issue, guest edited by Tony Mitchell, University of Technology Sydney, contains papers that discuss a wide range of different modes and forms of music and music writing in all fields, and in many parts of the world, from a perspective of history, performance, and architecture (including ‘natural’ architectural forms).

Full Text



America, the Story of the US. 2010, Television series, Nutopia Productions, History Channel.

Beckett, S. 1953, L'Innomable. Les ditions de Minuit, Paris.

Benjamin, W. 2009 (1940), On the Concept of History. CreateSpace, no place.

Burchill, J. 2010, 'Apathy For the Devil: A 1970s Memoir by Nick Kent, ' book review, The Observer, 7 March. Online, available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/mar/07/apathy-for-devil-book-review [Accessed 23 Feb. 2011].

Botts, L. 1981, Loose Talk: The Book of Quotes from the Pages of Rolling Stone Magazine. Penguin, New York.

Brackett, D. 2000, Interpreting Popular Music. University of California Press, Berkeley. http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520225411.001.0001

Brown, D. P. 2006, Noise Orders: Jazz Improvisation and Architecture. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Burchill, J. 2010, Review of Apathy For the Devil: A 1970s Memoir by Nick Kent, The Observer, 7 March. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/mar/07/apathy-for-devil-book-review [accessed 12 Sept. 2011].

Carmody, J. 2011, 'Man about Town Shares His Passion in a Mixed Medley.' Sydney Morning Herald March 2627: 30.

Clarke, P. (dir.) 2010, Mother of Rock Lillian Roxon, documentary, Lowlands Media.

Dayan, P. 2006, Music Writing Literature: From Sand via Debussy to Derrida. Ashgate. Burlington, VT.

Dylan, B. 2004, Chronicles: Volume One. Simon & Schuster, New York.

Elborough, T. 2008, The Long-Player Goodbye: The Album from Vinyl to iPod and Back Again. Sceptre, London.

Gates, H. L. 1988, The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism. Oxford University Press, New York.

Goldhill, S. 2004, 'Terpsichore and the Architects.' Architectural Review, vol. 216, August, 8190.

Griffiths, D. 2008, Elvis Costello. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Hoeg, P. 2005, Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow. Panther, London.

Homan, S. 1998, 'After the Law: The Phoenician Club, the Premier, and the Death of Anna Wood.' Perfect Beat, vol. 4, no. 1, July: 5683.

Howard, L. 2002, 'Production vs. Reception in Postmodernism, the Grecki Case, ' in Postmodern Music/Postmodern Thought, (eds) J. Lochhead & J. H. Auner. Routledge, New York & London, 195206.

Goldhill, S. 2004, 'Terpsichore and the Architects.' Architectural Review, vol. 216, August, 8190. Online, available: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3575/is_1290_216/ai_n6212588/ [accessed 23 Feb. 2011].

Greer, G. 1970. The Female Eunuch. Paladin, London.

Harris, J. 2009, 'Don't Look Back, ' The Guardian Online, 27 June. Online, available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/jun/27/music-writing-bangs-marcus [Accessed 16 June 2010].

Haynes, T. (dir.) 2007, I'm Not There, motion picture, Killer Films.

Howard, L. 2002, 'Production vs. Reception in Postmodernism, the Grecki Case, ' in Postmodern Music/Postmodern Thought, (eds) J. Lochhead & J. Auner, Routledge, New York and London, 195206.

Jameson, F. 1991, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Duke University Press, Durham, NC, & London.

Kent, N. 2010, Apathy For the Devil. Faber & Faber, London.

Marcus, G. 1990, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century. Harvard University Press, Harvard.

Marcus, G. 2010, Listening to Van Morrison, London: Faber & Faber.

Milliken, R. 2010, Mother of Rock: The Lillian Roxon Story. Revised Edition. Black Inc, Melbourne.

Muecke, S., with K. Benterrak and P. Roe 1984, Reading the Country. Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle.

Muecke, S 1997, No Road (Bitumen All the Way). Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle.

Pialat, M. (dir.) 1985, Police, Emmanuel Schlumberger Productions.

Potter, Russell A. 1995, Spectacular Vernaculars: Hip-Hop and the Politics of Postmodernism. State University of New York Press, Albany.

Richards, K. 2010, Life. Little, Brown and Company, London.

Ross, A. 2009, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. Harper Perennial, London.

Ross, A. 2010, Listen to This. Fourth Estate, London.

Roxon, L. 1969, Lillian Roxson's Rock Encyclpoedia. Grosset & Dunlap, New York.

Savage, P. 2000, 'Perfect Blend of Sound, Composition and Improvisation.' Review of Coltrane Jazz, Amazon.com. Online, available: http://www.amazon.com/Coltrane-Jazz-John/product-reviews/B003XKAZUE [accessed 23 February 2011].

Schnabel, J. 1996, Basquiat, motion picture, Eleventh Street Production.

Siegert, H. 2001, Berlin Babylon, documentary, Philip-Grning-Filmproduktion.

Weir, P. (dir.) 1993, Fearless, motion picture, Spring Creek Productions/Warner Brothers.

White, T. 1983, 'A Man Out Of Time Beats the Clock: An Interview with Elvis Costello.' Musician, no. 60: 4453.