The relationship between music and visual art is not a new one. Throughout history, they have been connected in diverse ways by the greats from both disciplines who knew how to hear the beauty of art and see the soul of music. They left us a legacy that continues to inspire.
artists and musicians use their tools to create atmosphere
The similarities in the process of creating a visual work and a musical composition can be seen in the creation of an atmosphere that brings out the desired mood of the viewer, or listener.
In painting, the visual artist can make this happen by using colors and the musician by the sound of various instruments or combination of instruments. Colors are associated with what is seen and experienced, as are once heard voices and sounds.
The sound of stringed instruments for example evokes different feelings in listeners than those in wind instruments just as red colors give you a different mental feeling than blue or green ones.
Jackson pollack and faith ringgold used music for inspiration
You can hear music in your dreams and see colors while listening to music. Two artists to regularly express the importance of music to their personal styles are the abstract-expressionist, Jackson Pollack who was heavily influenced by the music of Duke Ellington as well as bebop and blues artist and Faith Ringgold who was a childhood friend of Sonny Rollins.
As young musicians, we aware of this relationship and explored it as often as possible. We would regularly go to see The Young Adults, who were a band that mixed music, theatre, painting and spoken word.
David Byrne: a painter inspired by music
Local dancers, actors, and artists, some soon to be well-known, such as David Byrne, would regularly come to our Friday night concerts. Their movements, paintings, spirit, and ideas inspired our circle of musicians who knew how to translate and enliven them with sound, tone, rhythm, and voices.
The positioning of shapes, the spaces between them and their size coincide with the depth, length, and duration of the notes in music.
Of course, listening to loud, aggressive, fast, light, rhythmic or melodic music can affect the result of the work of art. Composing music in large or small spaces, stimulating or soothing colors and even the type of acoustics will give different results. It was a deliberate and healthy exchange of ideas that benefited both artist and musician.
Piet Mondrian moved to new york to learn American Music
Another person who made the effort to interpret music through art was the Dutch painter, Piet Mondrian. He moved from Europe to New York in 1940 to learn about American music styles. It was after his move that he painted two of his most known abstract works, Broadway Boogie-Woogie, and the unfinished Victory Boogie-Woogie, consisting of square shapes and lines that represent the dynamics of life in the city, and which inspired many American artists of abstract impressionism.
The folk art of some peoples is full of abstract motifs where the connection with music is felt. Aboriginal abstract art illustrating dreamtime stories is one example. Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky and American composer John Cage studied connection, translating, and merging music and fine arts.
Digital technology brings new possibilities
Although musicians and artists have been interested in mutual creativity since ancient times, we are finding that in the 21st century with the development and digitalization of visual art, music, photography, two-dimensional and three-dimensional design, and poetry, these interests are easier to bring together.
Because of globalization and the influences of different peoples and cultures, the creation of multimedia genres of virtual reality, graphic design and music have come about and can be, with the use of the internet, worked on collectively, even simultaneously and distributed world-wide.
connecting art and music at museums
In a desire to attract younger generations of visitors and to increase their interest in art, museums have in recent years looked for numerous ways to present the connection between music and works of art.
The Brancusi Museum in Paris exhibits their sculptures with the sound of jazz music in the background. The Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam invites musicians to give improvised concerts in front of a painting of their choice. The Moma Museum of Contemporary Art in New York organizes a series of Warm-Up concerts to present their new installations.
Of course, such experiments also generate controversial feelings on both sides. Not every work of art needs music, nor does music always need a work of art. Some might make the argument that music can pollute art and vice versa but the combination can also bring spice and excitement to both.
Museums hope to attract young people
The importance of such experiments in museums is both interactivity and opening the door for young people to feel free and welcome in the formal creative institutions, that is, galleries, museums, and schools where these two disciplines are taught, and future artists and musicians can be developed and inspired.
Never have music and art been so easily available to so many as now. We can hope for new and exciting developments.