Spotlight: How Music Relates to Other Art Forms As A Universal Language

Music is a universal language and can be applied to any art form.
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In a society that embraces so many different types of artistic creation, it might seem like there are plenty of boundaries separating classic art from cinema, cinema from comedy, and even comedy from music. However, you've be surprised at how many similarities there are between these art forms and the ways in which they're created. In this article, we're going to share with you some of the ways in which being creative can be a universal language, regardless of what exactly you're making.

Creating Music Compared to Art

Out of the many relationships between traditional artists and musicians, perhaps none is as articulated as the relationship between Morton Feldman and Mark Rothko's work. In fact, Morton Feldman would repeatedly attempt to bridge the gap between his music and Rothko's paintings by writing pieces of music meant to reflect similar artistic principles of the paintings, such as his masterpiece Rothko Chapel.

Music and traditional art also relate to one another when it comes to emulating existing work. For example, the process of composing a modern rendition of classical music is a lot like turning a photo to original art on canvas. The final version will always be its own individual expression, but the connection to the existing media is clear.

Similarly, the ability to transcend existing norms within a genre or medium without straying too far from their acceptable definitions is something artists and musicians have in common. To turn a digital photo to pop art on canvas, an artist has to refer to certain boundaries while simultaneously adding something different. Pioneering musicians like Scott Joplin who played the piano and Jimi Hendrix who played the guitar are recognized today for doing something similar within music. They kept grounded to the existing instruments but used them to produce revolutionary sounds unlike anything heard before.

Scores and Scripts

One of the interesting parts of music and film is the way in which they share how the creative process works. Both art forms involve time in a way that isn't as specific as forms in visual art that allow you to look at a piece for as long as you might need. In music and film, time goes by objectively and as a result, both must be carefully planned in advance—in film, this involves creating a script, while music relies more on scores.

Both of these play key roles in the recording process of both art forms and are very similar in the ways they direct performers to accurately perform a piece correctly. Both film scores and film scripts use a dedicated, standardized language that allows writers to communicate effectively to those realizing the project, whether it be through rhythms, stage cues, pitches, or dialogue.

Another way in which music is similar to filmmaking is the recent prominence of visual albums in online circles. For example, Beyoncé's Lemonade was an album, sure, but it also had a visual album component, meaning that fans could watch music videos for each song on the album, making the entire experience more akin to a film.

Storytelling for Laughs

Would you believe us if we told you that music is actually more related to comedy than you think? Yes, it's true: when you go hear somebody perform live music and they begin telling stories before songs, it might seem like banter, but there's actually much more to it. At that moment, the musician takes on the role of a storyteller, but the way in which they interact with the audience resembles an art form that you might not associate with live music: stand-up comedy.

The ways in which stand-up comedians interact with their audience are very similar to the ways in which musicians act when playing a show: finding connections to the audience's experiences, getting them to laugh, and telling stories in clever ways that are just as entertaining as they are descriptive.

In fact, many musicians feel very strongly about this connection to comedy and consciously embrace it in their performances. The Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman has spoken about this extensively, arguing even that comedians are braver than musicians because they have no music to fall back on and when their jokes don't work they must find a way to segue into the next conversation topic.

Lekman's enthusiasm for integrating stand-up storytelling into his music can best be seen in his live show, in which he will interweave stories from his life within introductions to his songs, often giving himself and the audience spaces to laugh. Some comedians also embrace the link between music and comedy, with comedians such as Tig Notaro not only embracing the work of Lekman, but collaborating and touring with him to show both of their audiences how their work is actually quite similar.

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