Children Draw Music
by I.Vanechkina, I. Trofimova.
FAN, Kazan/Russia, 2000. 87 pp.
(in Russian). $00.00; Paper, $00.00
Reviewed by B.Galeyev,
Journal "Leonardo" once granted its pages to the discussion on the problem of "drawing music", as it was named by one of the book's author . The book presents the results of 20-year experiments in Kazan Experimental Aesthetics Institute "Prometheus". The edition has become feasible due to grant from Soros' Foundation. G.Soros, famous American multimillionaire, carries out his philanthropic projects during a long period. His activity in this field arouses many disputes in Russia, not only at the everning parties, but also in mass media. Some people believe that he simply avoids to pay taxes this way. Other people consider him as an artful and rich spy, who collects information about scientific potential throughout the world, expecially in Russia,in order to sell it then to the interested organization (probably, CIA).
I myself has published already with the assistans of Soros` Foundation one book: "Soviet Faustus (Lev Thermen - a pioneer of electronic art)" . As I hope, it did not make any damage to the secuirity of my native land. All the more, neither CIA nor MOSSAD will be interested of the book "Children Draw Music".
Jokes apart, the book has appeared to be interesting and useful one. Up to now I saw only one edition of this kind, which generalized the long term experiments of Vienna's Institute of "musical graphics" . Kazan's book, as well as that of Austrian's authors, includes many colorful illustrations (thanks to Soros). Let's consider now the book itself.
At the beginning the authors tell about the eternal people's dream, the desire of miracle - to catch the elusive sounds, to imprint them in some way, in order to have a good look at them with no hurry. For a long time this problem was investigated only by the physisists, in their experiments on sounds visualization. Sometimes they were able to demonstrate an interesting results. But, unfortunately, their achievments had nothing in common with the art.
The authors then pay attention to the human ability to "see" the sounds in one's imagination, which is known under the name of "color hearing" (synesthesia). Of course, it does not mean an actual hearing of real color, but only psychic associations, analogies, mental correspondences. The separate section of the book is devoted to the fascinating story of how the "color hearing" manifested itself in music and figurative art (this part is illustrated with the works of the artists M.Chiurlionis and V.Kandinsky). Next section is a story about special experiments in the art of painting, when the artists tried to create some kind of visual "portraits" of certain musical compositions. Such attempts had become popular since 20-s of our century and led to unexpected results in... psychology and pedagogy. The most prominent input in this area was made by the above Vienna's group of adherents of "drawing music" method.
The second half of the book is devoted to the concrete pedagogical experiments on "drawing music" in Kazan. They were carried out in ordinary and art schools, colleges, and even in educational institutes. Small children, with no musical education, drew music by Mozart, Beethoven, Musorgsky, Scriabin, thus assimilating, in this unusual way, all the niceties of musical form and content. The results of their studies, i.e. children's drawings, were presented on TV, various exhibitions, were discussed during conferences, including international ones, in scientific journals. Everywhere they aroused a sincere interest. And now it is possible to look at them, gathered under the cover of a single book (though a small one), titled just as "Children Draw Music". Let's add, they draw it and thank authors of the book, publishers, and grand-dad Soros, whoever he was, magnate or spy.
In more general, psychological-aesthetical sense, the results of the work once more confirmed and deepened in details the main concepts of the theory of synaesthesia that has been worked out in the Institute "Prometheus". The weighty arguments have been obtained against the physiological, patho- and parapsychological, mystical explanations of synaesthesia nature. These arguments prove that synaesthesia is ability inherent all human beings, and is a manifestation of "essential forces" of a man. The authors experimented with the innocent audience (children), that was not spoiled by the "fruits of education". From the other side, the obtained diverse and extended material argues against the position of those theorists, who regard even the most common sensible synaesthesies as pseudo-phenomenon, as a pure language structure, not connected with the reality. In any case, theory of synaesthesia has got an additional corroboration and development in the experiments with "musical graphics". In its turn, this theory allows one to handle freely the method of "musical graphics" (and then light-music synthesis) in pedagogy, in teaching and upbringing of the rising generation.
Thus we may hope that book will be useful for adults and children, stimulating their cognitive process, being a window into new aesthetics of synthesis and synesthesia. Also it may serves in pedagogy as a textbook of this wonderful method of teaching in the area of music and painting art.
The color illustrations, used in the book, and the foreword (in English) are available at the Institute "Prometheus" web-site (http://prometheus.kai.ru), in "Synaesthesia" section.