Zooming Music

I found this interesting video, again from the Slow Mo Guys. In the video Gavin Free and Dan Gruchy record a slow motion film of a speaker, which is covered with paint. They literally paint the music. As music plays paint drops vibrate and jump along with the music. They are using a high speed camera, which shows the world hundereds of times slower than normal eye can see. It looks amazing how rhythms shape the colourful paint drops.

I think, this is very inspiring, as it gives me totally different insight into ways of painting music. Could I illustrate music in slow motion, and how? Maybe I could concentrate on fine structures of sounds and try to bring alive the present; investigate the ‘nowness’ of music.








27 / 12 / 14


“Color is the keyboard. The Eye is the hammer. The Soul is the piano with its many strings. The artist is the hand that purposefully sets the soul vibrating by means of this or that key”.

The sentence above was written by Kandinsky. It’s from Tim Ingold’s article (Ways of mind-walking: reading, writing, painting), which I mentioned in the former post. Concerning painting music Ingold mentions that Kandisky had characterised how music and painting music  “…open the mind to inner thruths…“. Ingold described how Kandinsky took inspiration from the composer Modest Mussorgsky’s piano composition Pictures at an Exhibition (1874). Kandisky used the same name for his own exhibition in 1928. In turn Mussorgsky had taken inspiration for the composition from his friend Viktor Hartmann, the Russian artist and architect. I think it’s fascinating how Hartmann’s works have transformed to music, and later to abstract art pieces.

To illustrate the transformation I searched for one of  `the exhibition´ works. The below image (picture 1) presents the painting called The Great Gate of Kiev, by Hartmann. Originally Hartmann’s work was for the competition, where he was commissioned to design the great gate in memory of the 4th of April in 1866, when Tsar Alexander II survived an assassination attempt, and escaped to Kiev  (Stmoroky 2000). However, the project was cancelled and Hartmann wasn’t recognised for this work in his lifetime. After he had passed away Mussorgsky composed the piano suite mentioned above, and he named the pieces after Hartmann’s works. (Ingold 2010) The last `picture’ of the exhibition suite was named after this event. Later Kandinsky painted his own version of the same theme (picture 2).

You can listen to Mussorgsky’s piano piece The Great Gate of Kiev here.


1. Hartmann; The Great Gate of Kiev (Stmoroky 2000)



2. Kandinsky; The Great Gate of Kiev (Wikiart 2014)



Ingold, T. (2010) ‘Ways of mind-walking: reading, writing, painting’. Visual Studies. 25(1 )April. pp. 16-23.

Stmoroky (2000). http://www.stmoroky.com/reviews/gallery/pictures/hartmann.htm

Wikiart 2014. Kandinsky. Visual Art Encyclopedia. http://www.wikiart.org/en/wassily-kandinsky/picture-xvi-the-great-gate-of-kiev-stage-set-for-mussorgsky-s-pictures-at-an-exhibition-in-1928

28 / 12 / 14

Different Kinds of Music Patterns

I have recently looked for different kinds of ways to illustrate or track music. Besides ‘normal’ notation here are some other methods I have found.

Martin Shelter is an interaction designer based in Berlin Germany. He has created a method, as part of his bachelor thesis, to depict music. There are some screenshots of the video below. As a whole the video can be seen here.

Another example is Rainer Wehinger’s visual listening score of Romanian composer Ligeti’s Articulation, which can be seen hereI found this one very eye opening for Ligeti’s music. I think it illustrates brilliantly the different sounds and sensitive structures of the piece.

I also found a book about Paul Klee (Kagan, A. (1983) Paul Klee/ Art & Music. Cornell University Press). I recommend to have a look at it if you are interested his interpretation of painting music.

Below you may see my versions on creating musical pattern


Media: pigment ink on magazine page, A4


Media: Pigment ink on layered acrylic sheets, 20×18 cm






Kagan, A. (1983) Paul Klee/ Art & Music. Cornell University Press

01 / 01 / 15

Fruit Song

One of my colleagues recommended I watch a video of cyborg artist, Neil Harbisson, who can actually listen to colors. He has been color blind most of his life but since 2004 he got a color sensor. The sensor changes the colors to audible frequencies through a chip which is installed at the back of his head in the bone. He can not only interpret the spectrum of colors but the color ranges out of human sight too.

I think it is unbelievable how he can distinguish the differences between color tones, and if he can hear so many tones of colors it’s amazing that he can compose based on that. Obviously he must be very talented in music as he can hear the differences between microtones. In the video he is explaining that when he enters to a shopping mall his head is full of different sounds as he interprets the surrounding activities.

Here’s a song he has composed based on the colors of fruits. I think this gives a good idea how he colors are matching to sound frequencies.

Notation vs. Music

I’ve been thinking about how the symbols on music sheets can look quite monotonous but they actually conceal another dimension. I think, individually the notes are just notes; signs of certain frequencies and times. However when we are playing them, the notes are interacting with each other and creating harmonies. If I am thinking about music in a space, I feel it is flowing around us. Nevertheless, it’s written in a formal sheet that one can read and play; it starts at top left corner and usually ends at the bottom right corner of the sheet. It’s quite amazing how music has its own written language, and whoever can translate it is able to experience and share it.

With the sketches below I try to reflect these ideas. I chose the piano piece Clair de Lune from the French composer Debussy, simply because I like the piece and piano compositions are close to my heart. As I did in the former post “Bringing the background music in front”, I searched for the music sheet, and using the light box I copied some of the staves, slurs and ties. I used black fiber tip pen to draw the notations from the music sheets on paper. I layered and drew them in different directions, to illustrate the interaction of sounds. The applied watercolors describe aspects of the music we cannot see: harmonies, evoked feelings, and the propagation of the sound waves.



Media: Fiber tip pen and watercolor.

03 / 01 / 15


By the end of November, I had arrived at the point that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue my research of visual culture and visual communication anymore. I was focusing on the visuality of fashion and clothing as I was aiming to become a fashion illustrator. Don’t get me wrong, I found fashion illustrations interesting, but finally I wasn’t sure was that the field I wanted to spend my next 9 months with. After some weeks of digesting all of this, and having conversation with my tutors, I came up with the idea to start exploring ways to illustrate music. Changing the research subject was a good decision, aside from the fact that almost two months of my first semester had past already. The new subject of my research is an extremely interesting and challenging area of study, and now as a reflection I would like to present some ideas I have come across with the research process so far. However, as fashion is still close to my heart I am not going to abandon it. I want to take a break from it, and throw myself into music now.

I started the research thinking of my own experience of music, and moved forward to exploring the field in order to gain a broader understanding of it. Very roughly there seems to be two kinds of approach to the phenomena.  One is based on the perception of the artist, and the second one is based on music theories or the requirements of composed music.  Let me explain this more. I find the first approach freer and, at this point, it is somewhere I have leant on my methods too. It is based on artist’s own experience of listening to music. I think that Kandinsky’s methods would be a good example of this. As I understand it, Ingold (2010) refers to Kandinsky that, in abstract art, artist works are not bound in objects from the visible world. On the contrary shapes depict ideas of things, not the actual objects. Due to this, one can express oneself in a way that touches the viewer’s soul truer. I would like to point out that this is only one part of his theories on abstract art, for instance a French Philosopher Michel Henry’s (2009) introduces Kandinsky’s theories broader including insights of theories such as External and Internal and the theory of elements.

Going forward, I see the second approach to music illustration as more technical and music theory orientated. I realized that illustrating music is not only about making art; it can be used as a tool as well. Regarding Bossis (2006), there are cases in electroacoustic music, where the complexity of a piece of music requires new ways to track sounds on music scores, as normal notation can’t meet these challenges. Electroacoustic music is lacking a settled way to mark scores as, for example, the timbre of sounds can vary so much. For instance, if shapes and colours in the score describe structures of timbre, symbols can be changed a lot between different compositions.  I think that is the one reason why individuals have their own methods to illustrate sounds in the electroacoustic music scene, and maybe it can be said that there are as many scores as there are composers.

There are lot of music scores available on Internet. Just to mention some names, musician Stephen Malinowsky (2014), who has made music scores of known classical music composers’ pieces, uses his own developed Music Animation Machine to depict music. I think his music scores are made in a very standardised and clean way. On the contrary, Rainer Wehinger’s visual listening score of Ligeti’s electroacoustic piece Articulation (Donald Craig 2007), shows brilliantly how different structures of timbres and frequencies are illustrated in different shapes and colours.  Also Kagan’s (1983) book about Paul Klee contains many interesting examples on music scores, and how he has developed his theory about it.

Thinking about the approaches, they both depict the music in their own ways. As an illustration student I see myself somewhere in between. I am amazed at Kandinsky’s works. And I find it so inspiring how he perceived music and translated it in visual form.  Furthermore, if I only saw the music scores without hearing them, these works would remind me more of pieces of art than graphics of music. The idea that they are tools aiming to describe the structures of sounds, but at the same time visually appealing, attracts me; it is like a knitted jumper I mentioned in one of my blog posts. That leads me to think of my former research of visual culture in fashion and clothing. Could I have found some confluences or similarities, for instance between Kandinsky’s and Ronald Barthe’s theories? After all, it is all about perception.

Working on this theme has opened up some new painting methods, as before most of my illustrations were more or less portraits using media such as pen or watercolours.  Recently I have started to think in a more abstract way about my illustrations, probably inspired by Kandinsky and Klee.  I did some experiments thinking about music notations versus how I feel the music and how music interacts in space. I found the music score videos (Malinowsky 2014 & Donald Craig 2007)  and the slow motion video about paint on a speaker jumping along with the music were inspiring, as the scale was totally different to what I’m used to. Moreover, this research topic forces me to think outside the box, as music is invisible, and you can experience it the strongest with sense of hearing. I’m looking forward to developing my style and exploring more viewpoints to further my research.



Bossis, B. (2006). ‘The Analysis of Electroacoustic Music: from sources to invariants’. Organised Sound, 11(2). August. pp 101-112

Donald Craig (2007). Rainer Wehinger, Music Score of Ligeti Articulation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71hNl_skTZQ&index=16&list=PL377912D603DB058B

Ingold, T. (2010) ‘Ways of mind-walking: reading, writing, painting’. Visual Studies. 25(1 )April. pp. 16-23.

Kagan, A. (1983) Paul Klee/ Art & Music. Cornell University Press

Malinowsky (2014) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74Osn05UkU0

Henry M. (2009). Seeing the Invisible on Kandinsky. Continuum

SlowMoGuys (2013) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WKU7gG_ApU#t=17

05 / 01 / 15

Layering the Music – Layering the Nature


This is one of my posters I submitted for my MA project proposal. It summarizes my semester A findings and leads me to the research of Illustrating music, and is the starting point for the Practice 2 module, of which the main idea is to challenge me to explore the topic from different angles and find many different approaches. This poster illustrates the theme of layering the nature I came across in autumn. As I changed my research topic to music Illustration I finally  realized, that as I perceive music, I think it is layered too; it is layered with different tones,timbres, sounds and frequencies in order to create harmonies and melodies.


Technique: Collage using Photoshop, A1

06 / 01 / 15

Tracking Something Invisible

This is the second poster for my MA project proposal. With this illustration I describe that I would like to drill into music and sounds, that is I want to zoom in to sounds and learn to understand them better. As I mentioned earlier, I see music as three dimensional layers. Thinking of this, I aim to explore ways how I could bring sounds alive in visual form.

Technique: Watercolour on 300g paper, A1

24 / 02 / 15

Can you draw the line?


Exploring ways of illustrate timbres, vibrations and frequencies. That is something so subtle -Can you draw the line where the sound ends and the next begins?


The original painting. Media: Watercolor and pigment ink on 200g paper



A developed pattern from the painting. Would be nice to try how it works on fabric.


Media: Photoshop


04 / 04 / 15