Music is Colours

Stefanie’s thoughts about the project

At a local pub in Esbjerg listening to live music, late one Friday night, Arto Moisala and I met through a mutual friend. Casual small talk, not only revealed a common interest in art and music , but also revealed that we had both had the idea of combining the two, live on stage! This resulted in my involvement in Artos exam project : In the following weeks, we have both been looking at simular projects done in the past, at exsisting theories, as well as exploring how and why  abstract art and music are closely related and what this means to us.

Why did I want to take part in this project?

Taking part in Artos exam project has given me the opportunity, as an artist, to explore the world of abstract art and colour . The concert will, for me, be an experiment of how Artos compositions played live and painting on stage in front of an audience will impact what I paint.

Why abstract painting and experimental modern jazz?

Painting and music are both art : Art can be defined as :

”the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect. ”[i]

Painting influences the visual senses, where as music the audio senses. In the exam concert we hope that painting live abstract art will intensify and enhance Artos music . The visual part of the concert can help the listener understand the music- tell you how to listen. It adds a new layer of information to the music. It may even help the listener to hear parts of the music- rythums or sounds that they normally wouldn’t hear.

By following the movements of my paint brush (or what ever I maybe using) the listener will try to hear what I am trying to paint and may hear the music in a different way. The same could be achieved when one watches dancers dancing to music. Dancing enhances the focus on rhythum. The movement of my paint brush across the canvas captures / expresses the rhythms of the movement in the music. One could say my paint brush dances across the canvas.

The harmonies and modal structure is represented by colour – adding yet another dimension to the visual enhancement of Artos compositions. Arto feels that each song can be represented by certain colours or group of colours. There are many different theories about colour, music and their relationship with each other. Kandinsky however is one of the most well known musician and artist, who worked with this theory:

Kandinsky believed that colors provoke emotions. Red was lively and confident; Green was peaceful with inner strength; Blue was deep and supernatural; Yellow could be warm, exciting, disturbing or totally bonkers; and White seemed silent but full of possibilities. He also assigned instrument tones to go with each color: Red sounded like a trumpet; Green sounded like a middle-position violin; Light Blue sounded like flute; Dark Blue sounded like a cello, Yellow sounded like a fanfare of trumpets; and White sounded like the pause in a harmonious melody.

These analogies to sounds came from Kandinsky’s appreciation for music, especially that by the contemporary Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951). Kandinsky’s titles often refer to the colors in the composition or to music, for example “improvisation.”

We also found that abstract art best represents or can express the mood, feeling and message Artos compositions are trying to convey. An article descibing abstract art, on the website of wikipedia states:

Visual art, as it becomes more abstract becomes more like music: an art form which uses the abstract elements of sound and divisions of time. Wassily Kandinsky, himself a musician, was inspired by the possibility of marks and associative color resounding in the soul. The idea had been put forward by Charles Baudelaire, that all our senses respond to various stimuli but the senses are connected at a deeper aesthetic level.”

We found that this is very true. Infact I would call, what I am painting, responsive abstract art. I am using my subconsciousness to respond to the music I hear and the mood or atmosphere of the room/audience, I feel. This is then interpreted by me (subconsciously) and transferred back to the audience through my paintings. Becuase my paintings are abstract each viewer will interperate what the see differently. This communication of emotion relies on our most basic primative instincts (one doesn’t have to have an art degree to be moved by art or a music degree to be moved by music) I, in fact, am trying to explain what the music means to me on an emotional level. The response to abstraction is different in every viewer. There are of course many theories about which colour or sound can evoke certain emotions- but when it comes down to it- the viewers response to what he/she is seeing or listening to all depends on their state of mind and how they associate these impression with what they have previously experienced in life –culturally /emotionally /intellectually) . The same factors apply to me when I am expressing the music on canvas.

Colour is the key. The eye is the hammer. The soul is the piano with its many chords. The artist is the hand that, by touching this or that key, sets the soul vibrating automatically.”   (quote by kadinsky)

Preparing for the concert:

I have prepared for painting live to Artos compositions by various types of meditation. Painting live will require that I can focus completley on the music that is being played here and now and for me to respond to it simutaniasly. I will need to be in a meditative state where I can tap into my subconscious creativity .I have meditated to music (including Artos compositions) visualizing the music in form and colour. I have also used movement to music – sometimes only my hands/arms and sometimes with my whole body. I feel that I can respond to music on a subconscious level when I dance.

Arto and I have also discussed each song so that I have an indepth understanding of how each song was composed and what his thoughts about each song are. Arto feels that each song expresses certain colours . For each song I will be working with these colours as a base- but will still have the freedom to add other colours as I feel when I hear the music. Like the musicians improvise-I too will improvise –inspired by the moment !

As we have a limited budget and location for the concert, we have choosen relatively small canvases to paint on. Using a video camera that will transmit my painting onto a big screen we hope that the audience will easier be able to see what I am doing.

Future projects

This project has ,for me unlocked the door into a very inspiring and infinate world of audio- visual art which I am looking forward to exploring futher.

Future projects will include,

  • Painting to all types of music- everything from classical to folkmusic to electronic tonal music/sound.
  • Finding other art forms /medias to express and respond to music with fx: sculpture, computer art, light, film/video etc.
  • Painting to music with more than one artist, working either individually or together.
  • Creating workshops that combine music and painting fx: at galleries, museums, schools , companies(team building or creative developement).
  • Either taking part in a art/ music festival or creating a Responsive/Interactive Arts festival .
  • Creating a personal blog or website to share my experiences and inspire others.  By doing so I hope to up a dialog, so I too can learn and be inspired from others, about this diverse and fasinating world of combining audio and visual art.

On a personal note, this project has played a signifcant roll in my recent recovery of cancer. During my treatments I have had the oppurtunatity to do alot of soul searching. I feel that painting to music has helped me to live in the moment and appriciate the importants of this. Dwelling on the past or worrying about the future is not reality- these only exsist in our thoughts -the only reality that we have to deal with is here and now. This project has not only inspired me to explore this new way of sensing the world, but it has also helped me understand and develope my inner needs on a spirtual level.

  • Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.( Leo Tolstoy) 
  • When you pursue artistic expression and give yourself the gift of time to create, you are centering yourself and giving your life a richer level of meaning that expands to other aspects of your life. Being creative gives you a tremendous reason for being. (Catherine Nash)

Here is 2011 recorded compositions: