The Effect of Sound

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The Effect of Sound

Sound is another wonderful source of stimulation that can easily stir our emotions. We are often told of the tranquillising effects of running water, which can help release, our busy minds into a more creative plane.

The character of an area we find ourselves in is heightened by the sounds associated with it. For example, a busy market place is full of hustle and bustle we are bombarded by sounds from all directions - people buying, people selling, children crying, boxes clinking, dogs barking. The atmosphere of the market would be altered if the sounds ceased. When you are visualising a busy marketplace, subconsciously sound will be helping you pull your mental picture together.

The partnership of vision and sound is extremely effective as can be seen in the sales department of music shops. Video sequences are often used to promote newly released records with great success.

The excitement produced by a jet aircraft or a sports car would not be quite so effective if we were only subjected to the silent image. Nothing stirs our sense of tranquillity quite so much as the wailing of an ambulance as it races by. To all that it passes it conjures up different mental pictures of some sort of drama.

Perhaps the most emotive source of sound is music and many artists have used music as a direct source of stimulation. Two excellent examples can be seen through the work of Wassily Kandinsky and Georgia O'Keeffe.

Kandinsky believed that colour and form should not be attached to the recognisable in nature but rather to the feelings of the inner world of the artist. He believed that colour and form had power over the emotions. In other words, an artist should be able to express their feelings visually without it having to look like something.

Perhaps he was ahead of his time because of his unusual gift: When one of his senses was stimulated, another reacted as well, so a particular shade of yellow or red made him hear a specific note. Likewise, musical compositions brought colourful forms into his brain. In Line With Accompaniment (1937), you can almost hear the thread of music lapping and weaving its way through a composition with other instruments.

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In Weighing (1928), each different shade of red produced its own sound in his brain. To me, it suggests a precise finale with a great burst of energy.

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Kandinsky's unusual gift is called Synaesthesia and in a recent article, a London GP called Jane MacKay discovered she also had this gift, the ability to see sounds. She, like Kandinsky, changed academic careers to become an artist.

In Blue and Green Music (1919), O'Keeffe uses her knowledge of nature from which she drew much of her own inspiration to visualise the sounds she was experiencing in her mind. I see no heavy bursts of percussion in this work. The rhythms rise and fall gently rolling seamlessly from passage to passage, tenderly up-lifting the listener. There are a few dark moments within this piece but no sharp discordant sound. O'Keeffe conveys this to us visually with her gently rolling linear shapes, her soft tonal areas of form and subtle use of colour.

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Many artists have used music as a source of inspiration, but in each mind, the music is programmed in a different way, producing unique outcomes.

The power of music to lift, depress, excite, energize, lull and soothe our emotions is very strong. Try your own experiments with music or any other sound effects, for example, the noise of a tumble dryer or washing machine. Produce marks, which might mimic those sounds in a visual sense. The shapes you produce will surprise you. Introduce colours or interpret your marks three dimensionally. Make up a print block. You can see from a very simple starting point you can move into the realms of abstraction and all that you have produced has come from inside your head. If you have difficulty getting away from images, which only represent what you see, this is an excellent way of moving forward into new territory.

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