Issues Index

UP09 All Seeing Ear

Music is all about sound, it reaches us through our ears, yet it operates in a world obsessed by the visual. Listeners can find it hard to think of music without some associated image – the contorted features of an opera singer; the physical beauty of dancers; reflected light from shiny instruments; the design of music packaging. There are people, children more than adults, who literally ‘see’ music, ‘hear’ pictures (the phenomenon of synaesthesia) but for most, the visual world provides a metaphor to understand and explain music. Composers create scores as pleasing (or more so) than the sounds they invoke and musicians can be moved by grotesque or striking images. Composers are routinely called upon to enhance and embrace the visual ideas of image-makers in film, television and dramatic performance: a process of collaboration that dominates the business of music-making. © 1997 JLW