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Much of the beauty of Baroque music is derived from fantastically ornate melodic decorations hanging on a simplistic and symmetrical musical form. A similar concept can be seen in Baroque architecture, so lets explore some visual examples of this idea, then apply what we learn to music.

Examining a Baroque Cathedral

Baroque Cathedral

This picture of a Baroque cathedral allows us to see tremendous artistic detail.

  • Exquisite gold work lines the top of the walls
  • Similar gold relief pictures are on both sides.
  • The ceilings are adorned with beautiful paintings.
  • Archways feature patterns in gold and marble.
  • The front includes statues, marble columns, more paintings and more gold work.

In every tiny space there is detail that would have taken an artist months to complete.

But if you step back and look at this cathedral as a whole, you will notice some simplicity as well.

  • There is balance to the two archways on either side.
  • The dome is perfectly centered from side to side.
  • The dome aligns with the altar section in the front.
  • Any column on the left side has a matching column at the same place on the right side.
  • In the altar section in the front, there are 3 marble columns on either side of center.

Symmetry and balance prevail in the form of this cathedral.

Throwing it Off Balance

Let’s imagine for a moment that the symmetry and balance were not built into this cathedral. How would it look if:

  • One side had two archways and the other side had a wall?
  • The dome was off to one side instead of inline with the altar area?
  • Some paintings were made with soft pastel colors and others with bright jewel tones?
  • The altar had 2 columns on one side and 3 on the other?
  • How would combinations of these look together?

By imagining these imbalances and asymmetrical designs, you start to understand the importance of balance and symmetry in the architecture to counteract the intricate detail. Without the balance and symmetry, the detail becomes too overwhelming!

Additional Baroque Buildings

Below are additional Baroque pictures. Think about the following questions:

  • What intricate details can you identify in each picture?
  • What aspects of each picture provide balance and symmetry?

Notice in these pictures of Baroque architecture that if you put a mirror in the center of the picture, the building would look almost if not exactly the same. In other words, the right side is a reflection of the left.

Modern Buildings – Opposite of Baroque

Modern architecture can be the exact opposite of Baroque. In modern buildings the architecture is often asymmetric – it does not look the same on both sides. To allow this lack of balance to work, designers talk about “clean lines”, or, in other words, not much detail.

The building below is a modern building. Notice that each side is very different from the other (asymmetric). Unlike Baroque architecture, there are not many details (paintings, sculptures, patterns, etc.) – the building has very clean lines.

Modern Architecture – Asymmetric with Clean Lines

Comparing Baroque and modern architecture we can conclude that:

  • Intricate detail needs to be balanced by simplicity of form (symmetric design)
  • Complex (asymmetric) form needs to be balanced by not much detail.

Baroque Music Equivalent

Baroque music, like Baroque buildings, has a lot of intricate details and balanced, symmetrical form. We will learn about these on the next pages, as we learn about ornamentation and form!

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