Ever think about what music “looks” like? Many songwriters talk about visualizing the shape of their songs. Frank Zappa used to “draw” his music when he composed, visually represent it through arcs and blobs and stretching blips. Martin Wattenberg, as he states on his site “created a visualization method called an arc diagram that highlighted repeated sections of music–or of any sequence–with translucent arcs.” COOL.
The above diagram represents Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Autumn. You can listen to it here.
Of course, as someone who is discovering music (theory, performance, composition and really why I like the shit I like) all over again as an adult, this, I imagine, is how an eleven year old boy feels like when he opens a certain drawer in his father’s dresser while home alone for the first time. It also may be helpful to express my musical ecstasy by providing you with a visual of the guy who introduced me to Wattenberg’s work. My piano teacher, Mike Effenberger:
I mean, look at the dude. He’s obviously a mad genius. (Photo by Enna Grazier at a PMAC fundraising event – p.s. PMAC is AMESOME).
He also happens to be the perfect fit for me as a teacher. Proof being that he knew how much of a visual person I am and that, to make the connection between the seeing and hearing world would be a huge turning point for me as a student, artist and not to get too dramatic here (but it is So. True.) a better fucking human being. If you like smart experimentation rooted in supreme knowledge and curiosity, you should check out one of the 80 projects Mike is a part of. It’ll change how you see and hear the world.
But, back to Wattenberg…
If you’re not into dusty old dudes like Vivaldi or Bach or Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov (you’re missing out big time suckers) than visual representations of pop songs may be more interesting to you. The above diagram is And She Was by The Talking Heads. Yup.
You can also upload any midi file of your own and Wattenberg will put it through the ringer and a beautiful print of criss-crossing arcs will come out the other end. AND you can even buy prints from him.
Christmas is coming y’all. Why not add a little sophistication to your sister-in-law’s home by providing her with a Wattenberg diagram of Red Solo Cup? Tis the season for giving. Aaaaand exercising demons in cowboy boots.