The maxim “the score is not the music” suggests that music notation printed on a page is a poor substitute for the sound of the music itself. Printed notes are sterile, an alphabet that allows a musician to produce the right pitches, but which must be interpreted and expanded to be meaningful. If the score—a visual tool—lacks some necessary quality of the music, how else might music be visually conveyed that might better capture its essence?
As both a visual artist and musician, I have long been fascinated by this question and have been seeking ways to connect visual and musical languages. In my “Bach Project” series, I have matched the 12 notes of the chromatic scale with 12 hues on a color wheel. Using the mathematical construct of the grid, I translate masterworks by composer J.S. Bach into vibrant color patterns. The music, usually time-based and heard in sequence, becomes spatial, able to be seen all at once. Unexpected patterns emerge, revealing the complexity inherent in the music.
In the way that live performance has richness that recorded or computer-generated sound does not—with variations of tone, dynamics and energy—I have chosen to work with deliberate, often tedious hand processes. The inevitable imperfections contribute to the feeling that this is music, rather than merely a printed score.