There is amusing hero in nice fairy tale "Alice in the Wonderland" of Luis Carrol, who draw all what begun with letter M: Mother, Man, Mouse and also Multitude etc... But even the hero did not come to the idea to draw "music". Is it possible to freeze the moment and give a memorable description of uncautchable sounds? To all appearances, it have been since long ago that the question worried the people.
If the novel of Soviet writer V.Shklowsky about painter Fedotov is true the later, being mortally ill, flabbergasted his servant with unexpected question "How draw music?" The servant allegedly answered in embarassment "It seems to me one should paint walking soldiers playing tubes". This is the very way musical thematics is most often reflected in many Russian and foreign albums, being published under intriguing title "Music and painting".
But there is no wonder in such approach, very similar to Fedotov's servant receipt, because it provides imprinting only the sound producing process, not the music itself. More close to music are the works of the painters who try to illustrate plot of program pieces. Let us recall the example of German painters M.Schwinds, M.Klinger, their pictorial depicting of music by Bethoveen, Brams, etc. But in this case too one is alerted by noncoincidence between concrete character of visible painting and inconcrete, abstract character of audible musical soundings.
But may be it is impossible at all to paint music and the very combination of words "music drawing" is as absurd as "fryed water"? May be it is not any sense to try opening locked gate? But the poetical experience is of great help to us in this case. It turns out that "seeing music" is quite accessible and natural for poetical imagination. But indeed the poets "see" in figurative meaning that is in mind, in imaginatory colours, not really:
Blue sound of flute
So childish tenderly little
Dull beat of drum
Triumphantly scarlet sounding of kettle-drum.
These verses are written by Russian poet Balmont early in this century. The ability to compare, to confront visual and auditory impressions is called "synesthesia". In the case the coloristic aspect of visual impressions is emphasized,or, more specifically, when visible component of the association is limited with color, they usually use another, more vivid and possibly lightly embarrassing term "colour hearing".
We have to use the term too. But one should have in mind the very expression "colour hearing" is metaphorical one and that it goes here about associations (more specifically intermodal associations), i.e. about product of creative imagination. Our focusing on intermodal metaphors in poetry and in art of word in a whole allowed noticing one more interesting fact: painters, poets are able to "see" music not only in colours. The imaginatory "portrait" of music features often also complex graphical, plastic forms. Here is the example of perceiving music by enthusiastic, enamoured young man, hero of novel "Cadets" by Russian writer A.Kuprin: The entrancing valtz was flowing... It seemed someone was juggling innumerable diamonds and spreading out wide streaps of blue velvet, with golden spangles raining down from above. Please, notice words "it seemed".
Both colours in abovementioned verses and play of diamonds in novel by Kuprin are "seeming", i.e. it goes not about actually seen objects (in another case we would face trivial hallucinations). Each of us has its own unique "seemingnesses", but we all understand both Balmont and Kuprin, this meaning they imaginary "light-musical" pictures feature something common, common to all mankind.
And what about the idea to try to draw all these "seemingnesses" arising at listening music? In this case it would be easier to notice and reveal the common, i.e. correlations of synesthetic thinking. This was the way Kazan Institute "Prometei", being engaged in realising light-musical experiments for 35 years, came to the idea of drawing music. Researching synethesia, colour hearing our team questionned members of all creative unions of USSR in 70s! We, then, decided to question also ordinary children, this being the result of our understanding that "colour hearing" is not unique ability of selected geniuses, but characteristic of creative imagination common to all people. Why did we choose children? The reason is that "all children are poets", in contrast to adults who have usually lost their inclination to creative imagination surpressed by everyday problems. Jokes apart it was after these researches that we came to the idea to switch to "drawing music" to compare the results with questionning data. And it turned out that experiments with "drawing music" are useful not only for psychologists, but also for training and artistic education of children! It was familiarizing with proceedings of well-known congresses "Farbe-Ton-Forschungen", had being held in Germany late in 30's, works of German painters H.Myer-Tur,V.Behm and activity of Vienna's school "Der Musikalische Graphik" that helped us to understand these possibilities.
The investigations held by Institute Prometei was supervised by long-ago graduate of Kazan Conservatory Irina Vanechkina, who had drawn in the experiments her pupil Irina Trofimova. 20 years passed since those days. The pupil turned out to be not worse than her teacher. Her school experiments were awarded at All Union competition of student works yet in those times. This theme became later the theme of her degree work, the later being the basis of her candidate thesis. But really is this the only case? The unusual experiments have been held till now and new generation of students and school boys and girls are engaged in them. The results were shared by authors with participants of many local, All-Russian, All Union and international conferences.
But the beginning was not so easy. In the context it is worth recalling one more fairy tale, the modern one this time. I mean the fairy tale "Musicians from Nemukhino", written by V.Kaverin. The main heroine of the book is also the young teacher, who felt as a burden standard recommendations of Ministry of Educatuion. It is to her liking too, such verses as that of Balmont. But her wonderful methodics is reverse to ours. She teaches children to see imaginary music looking at blue sky,red son: "The blue sounding of flute...". And the school's director is the former drummer who is totally deaf and blind to "colour hearing". The phrase "The triumphantly scarlet sound of kettle-drums" is absolute nonsense for him. He scoffs, mocks at young teacher. He invented, finally, chicanery odering young teacher to perform concert of "colour music". She felt in trance because she thought it is impossible to make imaginary music audible to all.It was smith Ivan Hildebrand who came to her aid forging voices to her colour instruments. As a result the drummer of exalted rank run away from the concert disgraced by his disbelief in wonder.
Our young teacher Irina Trofimova have initially experienced a lot of troubles too. Children liked lessons of "drawing music", but her senior colleagues, school administration had regarded them with suspicion, and even with indignation at first. But she was lucky because her teacher I.Vanechkina and young "smiths" from Institute Prometei were always side by side to her.
Be that as it may, when 10-15 years ago Moscow directors from national TV, asked our help in making feature film based on the fairy tale "Musicians from Nemukhino", I proposed them, with naive joy, including in the film both lessons of "drawing music" and "smiths" in electronic laboratory. I even proposed to use as perfomer of main heroine her prototype. Almost all proposals were realized in film, but actress playing role of main heroine remained Moscovite as proposed by metropolitan directors. Let it pass. The main thing is that the film is also triumph of our group, our ideas. So we were really convinced by practice that "drawing music" is wonderful method of polyaesthetical education, development of fantasy and imagination. This is excellent way to make obvious the unperceivable and the unstable.But the very main thing is the fact that "drawing music" techniques helps us getting deeper and subtle insight in essence of the music itself, its form and content. This is the point teachers and pupils are unanimous about... In next future one will be able to get information on all these items so to say at first hand. The matter is that two our nice authors, two Irinas, Vanechkina and Trofimova have recently prepared the book with similar title "Children draw music". The title is modest and simple. The book is in Russian. It is plentifully illustrated with children drawings. Several of them are provided here. Language of "musical graphics" needs no translation.
This text has been published as announcement in a journal "Kazan", 1998, N 3, pp. 129-137, [in Russian].
Translated by V.Chudnovsky
Below there are some illustrations from this book, for example: