Inspired by Music

People can relate to the musicality of shapes… Painting is ‘silent
music’… Soft and hard edges are similar to loud and soft notes…
Harmony, chords, pitch, rhythm, syncopation and timber can all be
translated to the visual arts.
~Clyde Aspevig, painter

There are so many things that can inspire a piece of jewelry. A walk in a garden, a sunset at the beach, cute little baby toes, a snippet of your favorite poem and, of course, the art that we select on Art Bead Scene.

Usually, when I am designing I let the beads just talk to me and tell me what they want to be, but for a piece to be truly successful to me there has to be more than just pure prettiness as the inspiration. Of course, the best is when I am inspired by the person that I am creating for, but sometimes there isn’t anyone in particular in mind for a piece of jewelry. In those instances, I like to turn to other sources when seeking inspiration.

Inspired by the song ‘Gravity’ by Sara Bareilles

A few years ago, I decided to challenge myself to see how I could turn varied inspirations into my own interpretations. I started offering what I call the Quarterly Challenges to my blog readers. I was actually surprised to find that so many were willing to join me in the Challenges. I promise my blog readers that they will have fun, learn new things and that I will always put a little bit of a twist to the Challenge just to keep it interesting. This month I am hosting a blog hop for the 2nd annual Challenge of Music. There are 48 participants who will be sharing their music and their creative interpretations for the reveal on March 1st.

Inspired by the song ‘Uncharted’ by Sara Bareilles

Your musical choices say a lot about you. And the personal playlist of every person on this planet will be totally unique. Last year I asked the participants to share their favorite pieces of music through a piece of jewelry. Since there were participants from all around the globe, we had a true world beat.

This year I challenged the participants to select a piece of music that was purely instrumental. Why instrumental? Well, when you select a song with lyrics you invariably see what the lyricist leads you to see. But when you select a piece of pure music, it is open to your interpretation. At first I worried that others would feel that it could be a bit boring without the lyrics to guide you, but I have found is that instrumental music is anything but boring. I also thought that it would be easy to select, since there is no shortage of instrumental music in every genre, style and era. That is proving to be the hardest part, even for me as the host!

Inspired by the song ‘Gonna Get Over You’ by Sara Bareilles

So, how do you go about choosing a piece of music to inspire you? For me, it has to have emotion. As I listen to it, there has to be some power behind the sounds. Not necessarily that it is a driving beat or loud, but that the music makes me feel something in my gut when I listen to it.

Once you select a piece of music, then what?

I suggested to my Challenge participants that they listen to the music over and over. Have it on in their studio space when they are doing something else. Play it in the car. Try listening to it at different times of the day. While you listen, close your eyes (okay, not when you are driving!) and let the sound wash over you. Pick out the individual instruments. Listen to the beat and rhythm. Every time you hear it, pick up on something new.

Close up of some doodles for a design I am working on based on one of the songs

Then, with pen and paper, doodle while you listen. Fill an entire page with shapes and lines and squiggles. It doesn’t have to resemble anything that you will create and you don’t need to be a great artist. Just make marks on the page. You might be surprised to find repeating patterns relating to the rhythm or sound of certain instruments. Set that aside and come back to it later. You might be able to translate one of your doodles into a shape you can create with wire, or beads, or fiber in your work.

 I wrote a blog post about synesthesia, in particular chromesthesia, the idea that you can see with your ears. Consider the colors that you see in your mind when you listen. What textures or shapes or patterns are prevalent in the music. If there is a driving beat, what beads in your stash evoke that strong force? If there is a repetitive pattern, how can you use beads to reinforce that? Does the music loop back onto itself with repetition of sequences? If the music is soft and mournful, what materials or colors might you use? As I am listening, I will go around my studio and pull out all the pieces that I feel represent the music to me and then start to arrange them like puzzle pieces.

My doodles and notes after listening to several songs I am considering

I used to teach a 7th grade English class and we would write poetry inspired by a piece of instrumental music. But this exercise can also help you with any visual representation of music. Try this:

Listen to the piece of music and freewrite your thoughts, feelings, moods, phrases, whatever it is that you see in your minds’ eye when you hear the sounds. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation or complete sentences. Don’t lift your pen once the music starts. Just write and write and write. Be as descriptive as possible whether you are writing a story of what you are envisioning or just the feelings, shapes, textures the music evokes. Maybe you can even envision a scene unfolding. When you are done you should have a page (or more) of words. Next, fold the page(s) in quarters. Cut the paper(s) into fourths. Highlight or circle the words and phrases that pop out at you on each piece. These words will be powerful and can become incorporated into your interpretation literally (if you use words in your work) or figuratively by translating those words into shapes and colors and textures.

For me, it is easy to pull out all my art beads and make something pretty, but sometimes the piece feels flat and lacking soul and substance. I feel that my work goes to a different level when I allow myself to be inspired by something – a walk in the woods, the monthly art inspiration from Art Bead Scene, a powerful poem or a piece of striking music – that is larger than myself.

Please come by my blog on Friday, March 1st to see the reveal of the 2nd Annual Challenge of Music and consider joining me for the remaining quarterly challenges coming up in May, August and November.

Do you find it easy or difficult to interpret various inspirations for your creations? Would you rather just let your beads lead you to beauty, or would you prefer to have some sort of an inspiration? Why do you think that is? 

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5 Comment

  1. Jewels By Ine
    February 20, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Wauw, that second necklace is really my favorite.. Loce the color and the 'loose' fit!

  2. steufel
    February 20, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    Erin, love your thoughts and considerations. Thxs for sharing them with us!

  3. Mary K. McGraw
    February 20, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    I like the idea of your exercise while listening to music: just to write and not to lift the pencil. I plan to try it.

  4. Caron Michelle
    February 21, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Oooh – these are fabulous! Beautiful designs.

  5. kmorgan
    February 26, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Beautiful. Wow. So creative! I really like the way you doodled as you listened to the music. I doodle too.

Comments are closed.