Listening to music always conjures up strong visual images for me. I don’t mean in the way that it might for someone with synesthesia, where a certain note or chord might be a certain colour. It’s more abstract than that. For example, the third movement of Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony gives me a very clear mental image of a willow tree in that particular light at dusk where everything takes on a blue hue. (Yes, I know, this is weird. Stick with me, I promise I’m going somewhere!) I have no idea why this is…maybe someone out there could give me some insight.
Given this, it’s probably not that surprising that when I studied music at university I was very interested in the link between musical scores and visual art. My undergrad dissertation explored the visual elements of graphic scores such as Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise. I most enjoy composing pieces that incorporate some sort of graphic score. Sometimes the work of an artist, like Agnes Martin, grabs me and I experiment with ways of translating elements of their work into a musical score.
I was sitting there thinking, why haven’t I tried this before? In all my years of experimenting with this idea, I had never listened to a piece and created a visual response!
So over the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting creating visual responses to other works. Here is my response to Saxifraga Cotyledon from Botanikk by Else Olsen Storesund, Pauline Oliveros, Lisa Dillan and Øyvind Storesund:
I don’t know if this will lead anywhere…maybe it will just be something I do to relax (and it is very relaxing. Anyone who’s into mindfulness, I’d recommend trying this with some calm music). But I think it will at least give me some insight into how my own mind connects music and visuals, if not give me some new ideas to try with graphic scores.