the structure of music

Architecture is sometimes described as lyrical, but for Los Angeles architect Liz Martin, its musical likeness is more than a vague metaphor. Martin, founder of the multidisciplinary firm Alloy Design and Technology, is composing a musical score to go with a house she's designing in L.A.'s Beechwood Canyon. The client is an industrial designer who commissioned the modern classical piece along with his 3,200-square-foot modernist house. “He understands the design process through music,” she says. “Aesthetics, proportion, materiality, and texture are reflective in the sound of the music.”

Martin is uniquely qualified for the job. Growing up, she attended the Manhattan School of Music and explored music and architecture in a SCI-Arc thesis. Later, her thesis was published in Pamphlet Architecture 16: Architecture as a Translation of Music, part of a series of small books edited by Steven Holl and published by Princeton Architectural Press. Martin hopes to distribute her music too, through a forum called Frog Peak (www.frogpeak.org), a composers' collective that publishes and performs works of art.

When the house is finished, the music, which is written for violin, cello, bassoon, and percussion, will be played at an opening hosted by the owner. “To him it's almost like a piece of furniture, something that came with the house that he'll showcase from time to time,” Martin says. She named her 4-year-old firm Alloy Design and Technology because an alloy is a blend of different materials. The mixture of metals makes it stronger, she says, and represents the way she thinks about design.