Thanks to technology, or rather because of the desire of abundance, they sometimes tie in with our daily lives in an insidious, aggressive and manipulative way. But let us not dwell on what depresses us, and let us talk rather about what drives us, motivates us and is central to our lives!
It is a matter of knowing how to represent the sound, which is essentially invisible; by expressing it or even its effects. The most classic way of representing music is of course music theory, which transcribes the notes, pitch and rhythm typographically and allows its orchestration and interpretation. Predominantly with experimental music, graphic scores go even further visually and stray from (often through necessity) conventional codes of music theory. They become clearer in their reading, or even deliberately ambiguous so as to provide several avenues of interpretation (John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Krzysztof Penderecki). More modern techniques also allow the representation of sound spectrally by means of sonograms. Graphic design, very present in the world of music, has in this respect a free and personal approach while remaining very coded.
The love story between music and graphic design changes tack in 1939, when Alex Steinweiss, artistic director at Colombia Records, decides to replace the vinyl records’ brown paper envelopes with illustrated covers. By evoking the music through an image, this idea is a real marketing tool and will make record sales take off. Even today, despite the technological advances, vinyl continues to be produced, to a lesser extent, and has become a cult item which crosses the generations. Concert promotion through posters then undergoes the same process.
If music reflects the various facets of the era in which it falls, the graphic design which accompanies it further anchors it in that time. It accompanies cultural, social and political revolutions and remains a powerful tool to document the ages. From the most alternative to mainstream productions, including classical, all music genres are represented by a different style; be it the naive and unrefined graphic design produced in the urgency of the punk movement (see Rote Fabrik p. 8) or, conversely, the strict and standardised Swiss style of classical music concert posters (see Brockmann p. 6).
Rhythm, colours, abstraction, transmission of multiple perceptions; apprehension of the music and image cohabiting, intermixing and finally merging.
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