Monday, January 19, 2009

The Colors of Music

Here are a couple of drawings I've done in the past few weeks. Contrary to popular belief, I did not design or execute them on the computer. I used a ruler, embroidery hoops, pencil, eraser, and colored Sharpies.

They are pictures of what music looks like to me when I hear it. The first looks like jazz, the second like baroque music.

Rhythm and Blues

Brain Traffic
These pictures represent something I've tried to make a picture of for a long time. Though I did not make them on the computer, I think they do show evidence of the way my brain has been shaped and ordered by the work I've been doing over the past decade. It's a lot more orderly than it used to be. There's a certain rhythm to the art I make, and I've been aware for a long time that it is for me really a musical process, only I'm so (almost) completely visually oriented that this is how it gets expressed.
In recent weeks I briefly followed a couple of people on Twitter whose understanding and practice of Catholic Christianity are very much more rule-based than mine. They engaged with each other in some discussion about their belief that Gregorian chant is the only music that's really acceptable within the Catholic liturgy. I like Gregorian chant, and in fact I sometimes listen to it while I work. I also find that learning and remembering the Latin sometimes helps to enlarge my understanding of the scriptures from which it came. However, I can't say that I agree that it's the only kind of music proper to worship. Besides excluding all the other wonderful musical traditions that humans have developed and put to use in liturgical settings, the imposition of such a rule seems to be without necessity. People have all kinds of musical tastes, and some people can't stand Gregorian chant. While I rather like it, I don't think I'd want it to be the only kind of music I ever hear in church, and it doesn't seem very hospitable to insist on excluding other kinds. If listening to chant makes someone a better, kinder, more generous person, then by all means. I can't see that the development of those virtues is especially related to or dependent on one kind of music to the exclusion of another, though. Anyway, I stopped following those folks after about a week, because the tone of their discourse felt kind of mean. One person with whom I engaged briefly told me to "spare the love and handholding," because people who are going down the "wrong path" deserve to be ridiculed. Hard to think that's what their witness is on Twitter and elsewhere. So what to do with that?
One of my dearest friends told me that when she's feeling hurt, or angry, or shamed, or is afraid of or dislikes someone, she tries to pray that they will have what she wants. I think she's right, and that that's what Jesus meant when he advised us to love our enemies. I wouldn't want to be ridiculed, or excluded, or pitied, and neither does that person on Twitter, or anyone, for that matter. Even though we disagree about the issue of what kind of music ought to be used in worship, at a more fundamental level, we both want to be included, heard, taken seriously, and loved. That's what really matters, here, I think, not whether we agree about the music issue.
If I speak in the languages of humans and angels but have no love,
I have become a reverberating gong or a clashing cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13
All photographs and artwork by Baya Clare, CSJ unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Baya, for sharing these drawings and for offering your introductory descriptive. I can almost hear the music with my eyes and the contrast between the Baroque and rhythm and blues. In fact, I can almost see the outline of a "figure" in the rhythm and blues drawing... looks like the head of a person playing a trumpet...go figure. Your reflective piece on the diversity of our musical preferences was very good. Thanks again.

Doc Op said...

Its little suprise that you would see music. I do too. All the time. Only problem I have yet to find a way to express the visualizations. (Photography is an effort, but the things I see inside are much different than the photos. I expect that the thing you see inside yourself is larger than your art works, but that the art works are a kind of short hand for the thing you see inside. (I tend to see in something that has the fludidity of water-color swashes but the hue of deep oils. I tend too, too assocaiate certain tones with certain colors, and see percussion more like line (or bone) within the color wash.

Doc Op said...

OOps, sorry to post again, but I wonder if I might "borrow" one of your illustrations to place within this poem (link below) If you go down to section 4 "Binary Rhapsody" - I think your Brain Traffic illustration would really jell with the words. Beyond that, I really love the art.

Mighty I borrow?

Anonymous said...

Baya, You may have a condition called synesthesia - where certain physical sensations get crossed up in the brain. People can 'taste' what they hear or see colors when they hear a musical note. If you Google the term (synesthesia), you'll learn much more about the condition.