Thinking About Art Media

Thinking About Art Media

Composers of music for art may benefit from some understanding of the distinction between media and content in art. This understanding can lead to an expansion of creative choices and to greater impact in the final audiovisual presentation.

A medium might be understood as an extension of the self which serves to achieve the human intention. The medium is the container that delivers the goods. The goods themselves are the content of the medium. If internet is the medium, then the internet website is a form of media content. The website in turn can be understood as a medium whose content might be articles, images or embedded audio.

Every medium has personal and social consequences, and along with those consequences are associated feelings and emotions. Consider the raw materials of visual artwork. The traditional canvas is a medium. It is a container. It is the means by which another medium, paint, is held in place to permit the formation of an image, be it abstract or realistic. Steel could be the medium. A vinyl record could be the medium. Steel led to skyscrapers which in turn led to a very different office experience for millions of workers. Sound recording on vinyl created portability and intimacy in the experience of listening to music. On an emotional level, we brought the artist into our homes along with the record album.

In the same way that music can speak to emotion, feeling and sentiment described in the content of visual art, so can it resonate with the medium itself. For example, a sculpture roughed out of a tree stump creates an association with nature even if the subject of the sculpture is a soda bottle. Creating nature references in the music might serve to emphasize an inherent tension between organic and inorganic in the sculpture. In other instances, the music may introduce a sense of irony. Consider the emotional associations to vinyl recordings discussed earlier. How do we feel about that retired vinyl being used as the canvas for a painting? There could be a sense of loss. There could be a sense even of guilt, of having desecrated something sacred. Imagine music that brings out some of these feelings while looking at content that is lighthearted or whimsical! The music has pushed us into considering a disturbing irony and our experience of the artwork is richer as a result.

By considering art media apart from art content, the composer of music for art may discover emotional or other elements that can be expressed musically. Emphasizing these elements may create tensions which deepen the experience of the artwork.

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