The Music = Art Project

The Music = Art Project is inspired by MOMA educator Mark Dzula’s project In the Making-Music for the Eyes (MOMA, New York, May 2011). In this project, Dzula engaged his students into an artistic exercise using sound art and sound-based installation. The Music=Art project is an extension of this idea with a deeper pedagogical intent, using a wider range of music, and with the specific aim of enhancing artistic and music literacy skills of children especially by enhancing their auditory and visual perception abilities. 

The Music = Art Project was conducted in the Brueder-Grimm-Schule, Eschwege, Germany, in August 2011, with sixteen students aged 11 to 15 years. The first stage involved showing students educational video content about interrelated elements in visual arts and music. Music and visual arts are closely related and the project first explored these elements in music that can effectively drive the creation of a visual art piece. The students then explore the basics of the seven musical notes and seven prismatic colors. A single note played with one or other notes creates chords and mixing one color with other colors creates hues. Warmer colors correlate with high-pitched tunes and cool colors correlate with deep sounds. Further, lines generate flow and movement like those of musical tunes. A flowing pattern of lines on a surface visualizes the flowing tunes of a melodic musical piece. Forms and shapes are like rhythmic patterns, a soft sounding rhythmic sound can be interpreted by a soft angled geometric shape while those of an intense rhythmic sound, by a jagged or sharp angled shape. A rhythmic sequence in music is easily visualized by a repetitive series of shapes or forms.

Visual synthesis of musical tones and rhythms by the children

While there are more complex correlations, these are some of the very basic concepts of how elements in music correlate with elements in the visual arts. In the second and third stages, students listen to musical pieces from simple to complex compositions to learn to analyze the flow of melody and rhythm. In the fourth stage, students select a musical composition and draw their three-dimensional visual illustration of the composition.

Visual illustration of three-dimensional structures by the children

The students then build a model of that three-dimensional structure using lightweight recyclable material (such as cartons, Styrofoam and paper) and paint it into a refined sculpture. At the final stage, students work in groups to attach these individual sculptures into a bigger sculptural installation, which are then exhibited in the school along with the initial sketches the students made. The students themselves organize and set up the exhibition. It is hoped that in future, we would be able to auction these artworks and the funds raised from the auction can be used to support need-based schools both in Germany as well as outside the country. 

This project has many outcomes. It helps the students to become keen listeners (and analyzers) of musical tunes and rhythm, as well as a gain a deeper understanding of line, color and form, and thus enhance their auditory and visual perception abilities. It also provides an opportunity for students to learn art by going beyond the limitations of two-dimensional paper-based art exercises. It also helps me as an educator to understand the musical preferences of the younger generation, which further helps to ease off any generational gap between the students and myself and creates a deeper connection between us, creating better communication and creative pathways. Using their musical interest also provides a unique way to enhance their sometimes dampened motivation and interest in appreciating and learning the visual arts. 

For more information on the project, please contact Noel'Gene' Borja Lungay. Noel Lungay is a visual artist specializing in music, figurative art and expressionism and teaches art in three schools in Eschwege, Germany. Originally from Philippines, Noel continues to support the Udolt Art Program that he founded (with his mother) in 1985 in the province of Bohol in Philippines, which provides art lessons to special children with speech and hearing needs.