The sound of drawing

The visual depiction of sound and music has kept musicians and artists busy for a very long time. The evolution of music notation is one of many examples of this lasting connection between the two forms of expression. One could argue that music notation probably has more do to with writing than drawing. The graphic display of soundwaves seems a more direct way to show sound. However I have never seen or heard of a musician using an image of soundwaves as partition.

In illustrations, say of someone shouting or playing trumpet, we are used to see lines coming out of a mouth or an instrument. The illustrator will sometime accompany the lines with onomatopoeia, to specify what the viewer should hear. Another example is that of making voices visible in comic strips with the three basic balloons of thought, talk and scream, and their many variations in emotional tone.

With the advent of cinema, video, and audio recording, image and sound eventually came together in a such way that we tend to forget their independence. Cinema and video is about moving images, and artists have always shown interest in exploring their relation to sound and music.

One of them is Danny Clay, who takes music notation to new playful heights by inviting students to invent and draw their own music notation icons for composing. This is a sound to image to music process.

Other artists committed to explore sound and images, is the duo Heike Liss and Fred Frith who improvise the sound and the image that emerge as one, during a live performance. This may appear a simultaneous act of creation, but the sound leads the drawing in this artistic performance. It is a sound to image process.

The simultaneous production of sound and images  has become quite sophisticated with the aid of digital programs and devices. One prolific artist in this field is Benjamin Heim, who works both individually or with numerous collaborators on large scale projects. This is a simultaneous music-image process where the music determines the movement and duration of the image.

In this relation between audio and visual expression, the preoccupation with visually depicting sound seems the main concern. Only with moving images, do creators preoccupy themselves with what images sound like. But what about still images? Are they condemned to remain silent? The only sounds that are connected to still images are the ones made while the image is created. The only movements connected to fixed images are the past movements of its making, and the movements of the eyes of the viewer.

Luckily, artists never stop searching, and some are exploring sound as it emerges from images, movement, or movement making images. Anna Ridler is one of them. She uses traditional visual media with contemporary digital and audio devices, to created images out of movement and sound.

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that there are now ways to draw on screen with movement and sounds without even touching the screen. Google partnered with CreateAbility Inc. to create Sound Canva. Go ahead and try it out. Tutorials are available too.

Below, André Franquin’s Gaston signs office documents with a deafening jackhammer.

Gaston. Ink on paper, by Léo Beaulieu, c1974. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

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