by Ester de Boer
Children's picture book illustrator. I also drink copious amounts of tea, and eat chocolate.
Do you want a writer's group activity with a difference? An activity that will stretch you in ways you wouldn't believe? Then you may want to try this interesting, and fun activity that will have you painting, and then writing with music.
Recently I ran a weekend art workshop in Canberra in which I used a synesthetic (Synesthesia) approach to teaching the elements of drawing through responding to sound.
Since our little writers’ huddle is on the artsy side I thought I would adapt it to the art of the written word.
We warmed up with some basic drawing and painting exercises and experiments, and I scattered a variety of art materials all over the table for us to choose from, and yes it was merry chaos!
Those of you who know a bit about art history would be familiar with Kandinsky. He was a Russian painter who is credited as having produced some of the first truly abstract paintings. One of the inspirations for the way he painted was an amazing ability called synaesthesia: Kandinsky could actually hear the colours he painted with!
It’s an enviable gift for any artist, but I think we all have a bit of it, and it comes out in our everyday expressions, for example “Feeling blue”, “black humour”, “green with envy” or “white noise” for the colours. Or how about texture, with expressions like “gravelly” or “velvety” to describe a voice?
I selected four different pieces of music, each with very different mood, texture, variations of dynamic and pitch, and we responded to each piece visually, describing the sounds into visual representations.
After sharing our artworks, I replayed the four pieces. This time, we responded both to the music and our visual representations through any kind of short, free-form writing.
Just as music and art have texture, rhythm, pitch/tone and tempo, so does writing. What was very interesting was how writing in direct response to music actually influenced our individual writing styles.
(To make this work properly, it’s important not to be given information about the music, use music with recognisable words or be able to see any video clips as they can obviously influence the outcome. The only recognisable piece is Flight of the Bumblebee, but I am happy to say that none of us drew a beehive!)
Stomp break dance with me
Boom! BANG! explode collide
Whiiiirl… BANG! fly……. land
c-runch—lift, glide… drop
Dancing. Joyful carousing.
Off to the markets.
Full of life. Laughter.
Slowly the day ends.
The sun sets into the horizon.
Ready for a new day.
Silken smoke drifts through the lattice, twists and writhes in the perfumed air… Its phantom fingers reach across the empty room and,
As we touch, it grasps, encircles around like cords,
Impossible to unbind.
Sadness. Love is lost.
All is lost.
There is no hope.
All is gone.
The voices all tell me
it is all gone.
But is it really?
I’m more determined to
live for life, for life
Each day slips by.
How will we live it?
Lose a day?
Gain some life?
Like a leaf blowing in the wind
blown by the storms of life?
Or rising like an eagle
to fly far above
Upon the pond, plipipipipop!
Spit! Spat! Raindrops drip-drop... dripipipipip!
Making puddles that splip and splap!
Drip. Drip. Pelting helter skelter.
Ssssshht-t BEEP Spaceport 9 canyouhearmeoverandout BEEP… ssshhhhht -t-t cracklesshhhhhtt-t-t-t. . … . . … .no noise. . . . U N K N O W N w h i t e r o u n d m e s s a g e .. . . number 9 receiving…. re ceiving… . re ceding. . .. . re ce d i n g … into the white round void that is s i I e n c e… silent .. sssilent over-over-over-over and out.
A cold fist in my belly.
Fear traces its icy fingers down my back.
It says, ‘I will get you!’
Safe? Am I?
This thing is pursuing me.
Will I get away…this time?
Long arms reach for me.
The thing I feared the most.
Megan's Two Cents
I found this a fascinating exercise to do. I was amazed at who much the music influenced what we painted, and not only what we wrote, but the language, the tempo, even the theme.
Let me know if you give this a try and how you go.
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