Blog 21: The Crossover Areas
Updated: Nov 20
In the late 1980’s-early 1990’s events conspired to enable me to change my direction in life. I left my full time work and became a ‘mature’ college student for 4 years. With access to college equipment and facilities I quickly found myself drawn to the crossover areas between music/sound and art, it felt a very natural place to be. I got to thinking about how massive and varied this crossover area is. So here is a small selection of my own projects and of people and subjects I became fascinated by all those years ago - perhaps some of them will pique your interest and give you something to take a look at whilst in lockdown?
Back then I made tiny translucent handmade images to project. By writing soundtracks to accompany them, I made tape-slide sequences, linking multiple projectors to produce backdrops for performances and walk-in Installation spaces. I fell in love with projectors - Kodak Carousels in particular - the sound and rhythm of them and the ability they afforded me to fill and transform huge spaces with texture, shape and colour. I made graphic music scores (using visual symbols) and recorded musical interpretations of them, again making tape-slide sequences to show the results. All of my graphic scores were open to subjective and personal interpretations, so performances of them by other musicians were extremely varied. I enjoyed learning about John Cage’s ‘Prepared Pianos’ - great to look at and weird to hear. Looking at composers like Stockhausen and Ligeti lead me to look at Sonic Art and Sound Sculpture. The nearest I got to making sonic sculptures myself was building a number of ‘musical kites’ from scratch, most of which actually flew really well and sounded great - though some had very short lives indeed! I wrote two musical scores created by placing a set of my own rules on, and ‘translating’ two visual artworks by Richard Long. We corresponded before I started, he liked the result of the project and I got to meet him during this time. I will write about these scores in detail at a later date.
I became fascinated by synaesthesia which is a neurological condition (not a disorder - just different ‘wiring’) whereby one sense is simultaneously perceived as another sense is stimulated. The most common type is called chromesthesia whereby upon hearing a particular sound or note, the synaesthete will simultaneously and involuntarily experience a colour in their mind - this is sometimes called ‘coloured hearing’. I can’t help thinking I would love to have this condition myself!
Many visual artists (eg. Van Gogh, Wassily Kandinsky), composers and performers (eg. Franz Liszt, Jean Sibelius, Duke Ellington, Tori Amos) and writers (eg. Vladimir Nabokov), have some form of synaesthesia. My fascination with all types of synaesthesia remains - I could go on for ages about it, but instead I will recommend a brilliant documentary to you called ‘The boy with the incredible brain’. It is about the extraordinary Daniel Tammet who has the condition. He also happens to be a high functioning autistic savant. He can speak 11 languages - he learnt to speak Icelandic in one week for this documentary! He can multiply enormous sums in seconds, he has memorised Pi to 22,500 digits (probably more now) - he sees Pi as one huge continuous landscape of shape and colour. So here we are 30 years later - I am still involved with both music and art. Currently my main focus is the design, artwork and, to an extent, the audio for ‘The Chris White Experience’ CDs which are now beginning to get released.
Be safe and well everybody.