Listen with your eyes

July 10, 2007

I’ve never made it a secret that one very big reason I have for running my little CD label is so that I can design CD sleeves. Ironically there hasn’t been a Cathnor sleeve yet that I have been completely happy with, but the act of responding to a piece of music with visual images is a very enjoyable and rewarding experience for me.

There are probably many ways to respond to music visually. More often than not I do not connect music to particular images straight away. What I do see however are colours and textures. I spent a few hours today playing about with some very early ideas for one of the next Cathnor releases. The music of this recording comes across to me in shades of deep purples (no, there’s no axe solos there) with occasional flashes of bright orange and red. As it happens those colours will probably not appear in the design as they don’t fit with the various ideas I am playing with, but they are definitely there for me as I listen to the music.

Textures are more obvious, easier to explain. Smooth sounds will appear shiny in my visual image, gritty sounds well, gritty. The colours I hear though are a more obscure and undoubtably very subjective phenomenon. Keith Rowe’s recent masterpiece The Room for instance I hear in deep and dark crimson tones, possibly I am being influenced by these colours’ appearance in the sleeve design that tips its hat deeply to Rothko, but maybe they would have been there anyway.

Another favourite of mine from this year, the Toshimaru Nakamura / Axel Dorner disc Vorhernach on Ftarri I hear in many shades of grey. I can virtually picture the music as sheets of textured grey sliding over each other, each a different tone, with some of the layers more transparent than others. The sleeve art to that disc though is bright turqouise and features a rather beautiful line drawing of a shark….

People process music in different ways I guess, but my listening experiences often have a visual element. I am often found with my eyes closed at concerts, a feature of my listening I have never fully understood, but perhaps this is to block out other visual stimuli, and experience the music as my brain would like to see it? Who knows.

I’m interested to hear if others see similar things in music or is it just me going slightly mad?

By the way, if evidence was ever needed that this prolonged period of rest is turning me slightly senile… This picture of me was taken by Julie tonight, half an hour into our country stroll…

Comments (4)

  • Alastair

    July 11, 2007 at 10:58 am

    I bet you’ve got another pair at home just like that.

  • Brian Olewnick

    July 11, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    Synaesthesia, right? Scriabin built a whole system around this, painting keys on a piano, etc.

    Nice pic, btw (not the shoes, the other one)

  • Richard Pinnell

    July 11, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Yeah synaethesia but nothing as literal as could be applied to any system really, its a more overall thing with textures a part of it as well. It also only really works well for me when I like the music I am listening to. Yeah all a bit hippy i know.

    As for that pic, well sheesh…. I post loads of my pics here and you don’t comment… and then I grab an image from a Google search and you tell me you like it!
    Actually I liked it too. My first thoughts when Google threw it up was that it might be from Damian Hirst’s spotty series of paintings or something similar, but then when I investigated the site that the image came from, turns out its a layout plan for a Revlon lipstick merchandising stand…. :)
    Somehow I prefer that to a Hirst…

  • Brian Olewnick

    July 11, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Heh, thought it might be a Richter I wasn’t familiar with….

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