Historical Relationship Between Art and Music

Modified: 4th May 2018
Wordcount: 3256 words
Arts Student

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Referring to key examples, identify and discuss the historical relationship between art and popular music, using key examples to support your argument.

Some people would think that art and popular music have no combined points of reference, and that each is a completely separate unit, with each subject trying to achieve several different goals. However my intentions are to prove that this is not true. I believe that they have linked many times in the past particularly during the creation of the Dada movement in 1916.

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Hugo Ball composed sound poems and performed them at ‘Cabaret Voltaire’, a club he opened that consisted of an ‘artists club, exhibition room, pub and theatre all rolled into one’, it showed several styles of artistic performances. He believed others like him were ‘interested not only in enjoying their independence but also giving proof of it’. On July 23rd 1916 Hugo Ball recited his sound poem ‘Karawane’. It contained seventeen lines of text, which have no meaning but was successful for the resonance of the tone and in the manner it was performed. The visual version is also congratulated for the several styles of font used to decipher different emotions. For example, ‘a sort of undulatory motion is produced by the alternative use of italics and roman type, while the left column produces a soothing effect’. Cabaret Voltaire and founder Hugo Ball were the main creators of the Dada movement in Zurich 1917. The Dada movement is believed to be the co-founder of contemporary art. ‘Contemporary art as we know it could not have come into existence without Dada’. It was breaking down and merging the differences between the several art forms as a response to World War 1.

Richard Huelsenbeck was a close friend of Hugo Ball, who also recited on the 30th March at Cabaret Voltaire and was also associated with the Dada movement. Although he believed Dada needed to be stronger and more political and in 1919 set up his own club, Club Dada in Berlin. He was regarded as ‘arrogant, and that’s how he looks. His nostrils vibrate, his eyebrows are arched’, and was not liked by the public. His work and several of the Club Dada creators were ‘more political than the other Dada-groups’ they released convincing magazines to illustrate their beliefs through photomontages and manifestos. His works include ‘The end of the world’ and ‘Don Inigo de Loyola’, which were more obviously political than that of Hugo Ball.

Louis Armstrong was one of the first jazz musicians to experiment with his vocal techniques. By improvising the original composed music, and creating sound on the spot, he created skat singing. He is still well known as one of the greatest jazz musicians today for his ‘spontaneity, and amazingly quick, inventive musical mind’. I believe this is a good example of the kind of performances that would be shown at the Cabaret Voltaire, although he did not.

‘I believe it is possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with calculation, led by high intuition, and brought to harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, supplemented if necessary by other direct lines or curves, can become a work of art, as strong as it is true.’ Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian was influenced by music, particularly the style that surrounded him whilst in New York. In particular his piece ‘Victory Boogie Woogie’ 1942 – 44 (which was not named by him but based on his original piece ‘Broadway Boogie Woogie’ 1942-43) was based on a title for a song and type of dance, which was extremely popular at the time and still heard of today. ‘Among his collection of records, was the album Boogie Woogie from 1942, the inspiration behind two of his most famous works.’ Set in the Jazz period the piece represented the ‘short melody lines that were interrupted by open rhythmical patterns’ as seen and heard in Jazz music. He would use plastic and bits of paper to illustrate and create new rhythms across the canvas, and create a busy, fast work to reflect the upbeat music and the bustling environment of New York.

Jazz music played a big role in Mondrian’s work both as ‘jazz music and modern art depend a great deal on improvisation’. Like jazz where an artist will never play the same thing twice, Mondrian also would rely on instinct and natural ability to present his work. It presents a sense of randomness and how the artist was feeling at that particular time, which is found throughout many other artist movements.

Jakob van Domselaer was a composer of the works ‘Proeven van Stijlkunst (Experiments in Artistic Style)’ and a close friend of Mondrian. His work was inspired by Mondrian and the art movement De Stijl, which represented using simplicity, limited colours and using horizontal and vertical lines.

Walter Gropius was the founder of Bauhaus school of art and design in Germany 1919. It revolutionised the art industry by replacing ‘the traditional pupil-teacher relationship with the idea of a community of artists working together’. It combined artists from all creative industries and allowed people to be creative and meet creative people. It was very influential and housed several well known artists including ‘Kandinsky’ and ‘Klee’. Walter Gropius was a lover of art and music, therefore inspired art students to start musical groups and blend with people from other creative industries, which was important for the progression of art to inspire new, creative ideas from both sides.

The Bauhaus Jazz Band in 1927 played ‘the Charleston on the Bauhaus Roof’ which originally inspired this link of art and music, and was the main reason for starting the trend of artists creating bands. ‘Bauhaus, Dancing on the Roof focuses only on that exhilarating moment when utopian dreams, uncertain ties, and fresh visions’.

The sixties was a massive decade for both art and music, with great pieces of work being produced from both the fine arts and the performance arts. The Beatles are one of the main well known music group that connect art to music, as most of the members were artists before creating the band. Also Stuart Sutcliffe, a previous bass player for the Beatles, dropped out and started doing art. ‘(Stuart Sutcliffe Untitled 1961-62)’. When the Beatles first began 50% of the fans that would see them perform were art students including ‘Astrid Kirchherr’ a photographer that would take pictures of them. ‘George: “Astrid was the one, really, who influenced our image more than anybody. She made us look good. She was the one who had the lather kecks and the Beatles haircut.”‘. ‘Sam Walsh used to jokingly call themselves “jazz artists” rather than “pop”, believing that their art owed more to the free-form improvisation of American artists’ During this time, music and art formed together like never before, with both artists and musician practising together.

Adrian Henri statement : ‘”to the cataclysmic effect of the Beatles and Merseybeat

in general; yet the visual arts (and poetry) benefited from the sheer headiness, the excitement of the time, as well as the attention generated by the music”.’ In the late 1960’s the musicians, clubs and pubs surrounded the school of art, creating a bond between the two creative areas. With John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe being pupils of the art school, they were exposed to the musical talent surrounding them.

The Beatles revolver album was released on the 5th of august 1966 which reached number 1 in both the UK and the USA. The cover illustration was created by German-born bassist and artist Klaus Voormann. The image is mainly a simplistic line drawing but also using very recognisable aspects of each member of the band. It is also done in a collage style where a lot of images are placed in between them which consist of more detailed images of characters taken by Robert Whitaker. It was stated to be a part of the phycodellic era, you also perceive this sense from the other albums that they have done in the sixties, by the way in which the surrealist art comes through.

The infamous butcher cover ‘Yesterday and Today’ has now become famous in the album art subject matter because of how controversial it was and has been called the Beatles album of all time. Shot by photographer Robert Whitaker, (who had also done other covers with the Beatles), the image shows the band sat down smiling while covered in ‘decapitated baby dolls and pieces of meat’ while the four of them are dressed in butchers aprons this image proved to be too strong and was quickly banned, some DJ’s even refused to play it. Which, if you compare it to some of the art of today, it would be seen as acceptable, as freedom to a subject matter is an asset to the modern art world. Not only was their album art banned, but also some of their music, on the grounds that it could encourage a permissive attitude towards drugs, which also connects to the era, in which drug taking was popular. Their other album covers consisted of many modern artists including Robert Fraser, Robert Blake and Peter Blake. Although Peter Blake, may be well known for his cover ‘St Pepper’, in fact his wife Jan Howarth created this design with him.

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John Lennon enjoyed experimentation with sound along with artist and wife Yoko Ono. They would create tape loops and use the technique ‘Musique Concrete’, a technology that allowed tapes to be cut and edited. Musique Concrete is defined as ‘a musiclike art form composed directly on magnetic tape by the electronic manipulation, distortion, or transformation of natural sounds and noises, as of musical instruments or rain’. The Piece ‘Revolution 9’ appeared on The White Album released in 1968. ‘This was made by layering tape loops over the basic rhythm of revolution’. Lennon called it ‘The music of the future’ and whilst it was loved by many people who appreciated and understood sound art, it was also hated, particularly by producer George Martin who ‘tried to keep it off the album’.

Paul McCartney, a member of the Beatles and Yoko Ono opened an art gallery, in the basement off a bookstore. ‘Indica’ was opened during the late 1960’s. It was where John Lennon met Yoko Ono on ‘Novermber 9, 1966’. During the exhibit ‘His famous retort : an imaginary five shillings to hammer in the imaginary nail’ made them inseparable. This was the start of the experimentation with sound and art. In 1968 they released an album with this inspirational sound ‘Unfinished Music No1: Two Virgins’ which was also famous for its controversial cover, that was slated and not appreciated by the public.

Exploding Plastic Inevitable consisted of organised sound and lighting events constructed by Andy Warhol in 1966. His favourite group Velvet Underground performed there along with the showings of Warhol’s films and Nico. Victor Bockris said’ “January to April 1966 was the golden period for the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol. After the psychiatrist’s convention, Warhol shot a scintillating film of the band rehearsing at the Factory, symphony of sound, which remains the single best visual record of the Velvet Underground. They also recorded sound tracks for two of Warhol’s best movies shot at the beginning of the year, hedy and more milk yvette.”‘. Andy Warhol was inspired by the times music particularly this group and filmed them. Using these as inspiration he created many current day artworks, which celebrated the popular culture, exactly what the musical groups wanted to achieve. Exploding Plastic Inevitable was said to be very heavy on the emotions, as it was loud and bright with strobe lights, colours exploding and ‘the light-show could be blinding at times’.

Another example of a more modern link is the punk scene, which was said to have two causes. The first being a response to the environment and current trends, the second coming out of art schools. Malcolm Mclaren stated that he was responsible for ‘starting the Punk movement in Britain’ and was also heavily involved in forming The Sex Pistols, and became their manager. The Sex Pistols were the first Punk band in Britain and formed the punk scene, along with the fashion and political values that came with it. Malcolm McLaren was also a fashion designer and an art student in the sixties; it was this that led the movement in its uniqueness of clothing and style. After The Sex Pistols and the punk scene, he became more involved in his ‘burgeoning art career’; he wants to be taken more seriously as an artist and calls them ‘musical paintings’.

Malcolm McLaren’s video piece ‘Shallow’ has been given great credit to his anticipation of becoming a more recognised artist. His work on erotica and music was becoming more popular with the public. ‘”Since I was an art student in the Sixties I’ve been interested in the foreplay in sex films, I’m not sure why – intrigued by the blandness, the stupidity and the kind of innocence of these people who couldn’t act but who would be paid to have sex. Sex films became more hardcore, and lost a lot of charm in the Seventies. Somehow this was allied to my feelings about a disappearing world of pop culture – the images were how I imagined pop music to look. The feeling was the same as when I was 13 – imagining a world of sex you might imagine or never possibly have, and listening to pop music.” This is a perfect example of the link between art and music, I feel at this time it was stronger than it has ever been, with artists considering music as a topic for their work, or even having or creating music to enhance their art.

Jamie Reid created the cover album art for The Sex Pistols; he was involved with the situationist movement and a strong believer in anarchy. The situationist’s ideas were very hard to accumulate, as there were several ideas about the movement, ‘Situationists focus on their cultural ideas, particularly in relation to detournement and the development of punk’. They believed in looking at real life, instead of false truths. Jamie Reid’s famous cover ‘God Save The Queen’ was known as one of ‘the single most iconic image of the punk-era’. His work involves the cutting from newspapers and combining graphical work that has and always will be recognized for it anarchistic feel. It was loved and hated at the time and some of his work has been banned in the past.

Brian Eno studied at art school, but became involved with the glam rock group ‘Roxy Music’, even though he had no musical background or playing experience. After leaving this band he became more experimental with his music creation, taking the idea of chance with lyrics and sounds, he started to see his work as art not music and called it ‘visual art’. He used sound in an abstract expressionist way, in the same way as Jackson Pollock. His work ’77 Million Paintings’ was created in 2007, and is a ‘constantly evolving sound and imagescape which continues his exploration into light as an artist’s medium and the aesthetic possibilities of “generative software”‘. This involves the combination of image and sound working together. He is known as one of the most important people to combine the art and music worlds, and is still continuing to do so today.

In a more modern perspective, an example of the link between music and art is the group, Franz Ferdinand. Having come from an artistic background (‘Hardy graduated from Glasgow School Of Art, and Thompson also posed as a life model there’) they would rehearse in The Chauteau, they were known to have’ rave-like events incorporating music and art’. In their recent career they have been known to have artists and art references throughout their careers, including music video ‘Do You Wanna’, where several artists or art works are within the gallery where it is set. Although I feel this was to attempt to put them in an art music group, they wanted the public to know they were previously from an art background, making them more popular. Another example is their album art covers, which are obviously inspired by the pop art movement, as the techniques and overall appeal is similar.

Graffiti is part of the hip hop culture that has been split up into various different art forms such as Graffiti, Writing, Dj-ing, MC-ing and break dancing. There is a very close culture between graffiti art and some of the big hip hop artists such as Dr Dre, 50 Cent and The Game

Grafitti art has changed dramatically since its origins, with the likes of Bansky, a famous British artist. Not much is known because he hides his identity, (WHY) but he had start his rise to fame during the great Bristol aerosol boom of the late 1980’s most of his art are cover such topics such as ethics culture and politics, Banksy successfully combines graffiti writing and a stencilling technique that stands out from all of the others.

Graffiti has also been used on a wide range of album covers which shows a direct link from art to music such as Blur, a Britpop band who have used more than one of Banksy’s piece of artwork. This album Think Tank, has been said that it inspired some of Blur’s music. They have also used Banksy artwork on another cover, Crazy Beat, which was taken from one of Bansky’s original artworks. This graffiti was destroyed soon after Blur used it for their single cover, the council simply painted over it. The image was on the side of a privately-owned building in London’s Stoke Newington, featuring a cartoon version of the Royal Family waving from the top of a balcony, the council thought that they were cleaning the building, branding that the graffiti was unclean. The image was on the side of the building for 8 years before they decided to do anything about it.

I find the history of art with combined music to be fascinating. My favourite example being ‘Charleston on the Bauhaus Roof’ because i feel the teacher’s influenced the students to start these art bands, if not for this i feel art would have not developed as successfully as it did. I also think that art and music have a strong bond because they are both very personal subjects, in that one person may like the work and another won’t. Both industries have high demands to get out to the public and show their work, and hope that people appreciate what they have created. I feel the use of experimenting and combining all of the creative fields is expanding and artists and musicians will continue to use the creative minds of each other in both fields in the future.


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