Transformation and reflection of ritual architectures

The first collection of soundscapes suited to ritual architecture in the bathroom is currently being showcased as part of the Dornbracht Culture Project. The soundscapes reflect the relationship between the space, the materiality and the movement within the MEM, TARA LOGIC and ELEMENTAL SPA ritual architectures.

The range was first presented as part of a Sound Spa, on the premises of the Meiré und Meiré factory responsible for the culture projects. Visitors to the International Furnishing Show in Cologne were able to experience the soundscapes in conjunction with the ritual architectures. Starting from the various spatial principles with which the ritual-architectures invite us to understand cleansing as an all-encompassing process, Mike Meiré instigated and curated a series of corresponding soundscapes.

It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that music deigned to cast a sideways glance at interior architecture. The composer Eric Satie summed up a series of very slow piano pieces as “musiques d’ameublement”, due to their minimal movement and pared-down complexity. “However, Brian Eno was also a great source of inspiration for the idea of using music as an element of the room. Over a long period of time, he has worked to understand music not merely as an artificial means of expression similar to speech, taking place on the temporal plane, but also in its ability to paint pictures, create space and therefore function in a similar way to a sculpture or a perfume, evoking specific non-verbal impressions", explains Mike Meiré.

Music and sound may be indifferent to the sensuality of a room or may run contrary to this and create their own space. Sound produces a more rapid and a deeper impact on the consciousness and on personal perception than do visual codes or verbal communication. Music enters the nervous system directly, literally penetrating into the furthest corners and deepest layers, in both mental and physical senses. The sheer power of these physical components could be felt in Performance 2, part of the Culture Project. In the hall of the former Berlin Post Office, the drummer Dave Nuss filled the room with a storm of sound that could certainly be regarded as cleansing: at the end of his performances, when he is totally exhausted, he measures his success by the extent to which he has succeeded in breaking down everyday thought patterns. Connected by a sea of sound waves, the audience participates in this process. In this manner, the concept of washing can be transferred directly into the sphere of music, just as metaphors for acoustic effects themselves often encroach on the semantic field of water: voluntarily emerging oneself in loud and dynamic music may be a welcome counterweight to the fact that, in the world of today, modern humans are exposed to innumerable environmental noises, signals and acoustic communication media. After all, it is when silence falls that everyday thoughts and impressions may continue to resound in the human brain. Irrespective of the volume, focusing on sounds from which no meaning can be decoded may then help to clear the brain and focus the thoughts.


This recognition forms the basis for the Sound Spa concept, which constitutes the background to the "Noises for Ritual Architecture" show in Meiré and Meiré's Cologne factory. The cleansing effect described above may be increased further if combined with an appropriate spatial layout. Mike Meiré: “The ritual architectures are focused on the transformation of everyday behaviour patterns into rituals. The sound compositions reflect spatial and sensuous qualities through the acoustic medium, thereby reinforcing this element of transformation.” In a room that is charged with energy in this way, it is possible to feel your own presence more strongly. The patterns of behaviour carried out gain in subjective meaning and people involuntarily become more conscious of them.

“From sensory activity to motor functions” is how Carlo Peters interprets this principle for his own work, for which the sensory quality of the spatial architectures was first translated into a specific singular sound image and then arranged into a temporal sequence in the composing process. “This is where a conceptual difference exists between “Noises for Ritual Architecture” and the idea of ambient music as developed by Brian Eno and exemplified in "Music For Airports". The latter piece imagines an ideal space, whilst Carlo Peters' music is focused on very specific bathroom architectures and material worlds", adds Mike Meiré. This difference is clarified by such works as “Noise 3 Elemental”: the titles of the three pieces themselves are different ways of referring to the chemical element copper, which dominates the surfaces in ELEMENTAL SPA. “Cyprium 10834” contains the Latin name and the boiling point of the material, “Ybergangsmetalle” is the old German name for the cupreous metals in the period system, whereas the last title "Copper Acetate" refers to verdigris and consequently plays on the potentially changeable nature of the substance, which forms part of the material concept.

The tripartite nature of the composition can also be understood as an analogy for passing through the various stages of cleansing. The piece begins with entry to the spectacular world of Elemental Spa, as the harsh impressions of everyday life give way to a deep and powerful sonic movement. The theme of the middle section is the encounter with the water. Through the music, the listening ear becomes the part of the body touched by the water. Yet the surrounding materials become audible, with the steel and copper beginning to vibrate and seeming to twist around the ear. When linked with the third, ethereal section, a transformative transition can be ascertained: whilst the struggle with mysterious and dark elements is at first closed in as an integrated part of the cleansing process, the perspective then opens up; at the end, the spatial and audio impression is surrounded by the vastness of a cosmos. There are two further soundscapes which take different approaches to the aspect of developing awareness through synaesthestic reflection of the bathroom architecture.

In the MEM architecture, the physical materiality of the fittings ebbs away, leaving the room as the focus of attention. Carlo Peters’ composition picks up on the spiritual energies contained in this room, creating a swaying carpet of sound from one single slow vibration and, over this ground, setting up an interplay of numerous natural sounds with digital clicks, noises and streams. “Noises 1 MEM” pays homage to the muses, with music portrayed more as a possibility than as a form. What remains is memory, expansiveness and ease. The sound composition for the TARA LOGIC architecture focuses on the parameters of activity/exertion, strength and movement. Here the music is perhaps best understood as a “soundtrack” in a very literal sense, with the audio spectrum becoming a treadmill – after a warm-up phase, an introduction that corresponds to the light in the room (“Amber Glass”), the noises slowly start up. Modelled on a workout in a closed room or on an accelerated heartbeat, “Logic” is based on repetitive samples within which pulsing tone colours generate constant freshness. “Basically it is always just about to take off”, says Mike Meiré.

The physical edition of the CDs, on which the "Noises" appear, is closely connected with its trigger, the ritual architectures. However, the autonomy of the sound sphere is acknowledged as the paper posters enclosed with each CD are tailored to the ritual architecture, with the poster for MEM displaying a digital collage of a section of the atrium where the paradise garden is located. For Elemental, the poster shows a pictorial composition consisting of coloured surface impressions from the “Elemental Spa”. The covers each depict views of the various components of the bathroom architecture. If we transfer these clues to the soundscapes, we can establish that the realm of sound remains simultaneously abstract and diffuse, a concept that can be sensed yet not fully grasped.

NOISES FOR RITUAL ARCHITECTURE was instigated by Mike Meiré. The sound collages of composer Carlo Peters from Cologne represent the relationship between space, materiality and movement in ritual architecture and were produced by NEO NOTO, Cologne.

Tobias Ruderer