Drawing as music – challenging notions of art and communication
ANNA CASTAGNARO| MAY, 16 / 2023
Photos and video provided by Ariel González Losada
Music has always been centered around sound and audio experiences. But what if the music we heard was also a visual experience?
As a child, contemporary composer Ariel González Losada loved being surrounded by pencils and papers. He was particularly enticed by lines and basic abstract shapes. "I used to draw structures, buildings, bridges, city diagrams, machines and imaginary objects," Losada said.
When his mom brought home a guitar, a spark of curiosity for the instrument then drove him to develop a deep connection with music. He describes the artistic connection between music and visual art as "two sides of the same coin, two dimensions of the same impulse."
With appreciation for both art forms into his adolescent years, he began to expand the elements of what it means to compose music through the lens of drawing.
This is not unfamiliar to the realm of Contemporary Classical/New Music, as the genre was pioneered by post-tonal composers in the 20th century who also utilized creative notation such as Arnold Schoenberg, John Cage, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and more. John Cage's vocal solo piece, Aria, is an example of a graphic score where each line "represents a different style of singing," and the varying shapes and colors are stylistic choices made by the vocalist.
Losada, however, is a product of newer musical philosophies, and like any New Music composer, he challenges the bounds of music and visual art to his own degree. He divides the process into three levels: the referential, the gestural, and the aesthetic levels.
The composer first starts by corresponding the degree of referentiality that can exist between a sound and a visual object and then developing the physical relationship by aligning the pulses of his musical gestures to his graphic ones. The final aesthetic goal is to configure the poetics that unify the whole and give the piece a common identity through his three-level process.
This correspondence across art forms is a very abstract and individualized process and takes imagination to create. Yet, the human curiosity for tangible material science and history is grounded at the center of art. "The relationship appears on an intellectual plane until it begins to take form and materialize in musical works," he says. For example, "The Abysmal Silence of the Thing" or "El abysmal silencio de la cosa" began as a handwritten score, which then got converted to a traditional linear score.
His other works like Materia/Matter and The Rutherford's Collapse are inspired by the concept of matter. There is a referential, aesthetic, and gestural relationship between drawings and music since many of these are made graphically. Therefore, visual gestures which correspond to the sonorous trajectories and behaviors are made in large by musical production from instruments.
Graphics tap into a very rudimentary part of the human brain's ability to process meaning and emotion through semiotics, or symbols, which has been utilized from the beginning of our very existence (ie. paleoanthropological cave art).
In a world where data, linguistic, or numeric systems of communication are standard, Losada brings light to new ways of thinking about art and communication of meaning. Perhaps his fresh perspective on the intersection of visual art and music is a way we can think about how meaning is constructed and impacts universal audiences.
He projects that music in the future will cross the limits of its own genres and styles, increasingly using procedures, processes, and elements from different branches of science, especially biology, physics, genetics and, of course, computer science.
Losada continues to work on music that involves a greater degree of physicality, both in relation to the density of the sound material and the physicality of the sound gestures. He hopes to achieve an organic manifestation of natural phenomena by virtue of its own complexity. "I want to create musical works that are true sound organisms!" he concludes.
Anna Castagnaro is a Composium Ambassador pursuing a Dual Degree in Radio/TV/Film and Music Composition at Northwestern University