Why Music AND Design?

With my new website, I have decided to bring my “variant” worlds of music and design together into one site.  This is intentional.  Some people have questioned “Why music and design.”  Some assume that I do both because they are both creative disciplines.  Some assume that my apparent A.D.D. has mandated that I can’t stay focused on one thing like most people – and that I, therefore, need to have multiple interests to keep myself from becoming completely bored.

While all of these assumptions may have some truth to them, I would like to open my mental processes – sharing why these two disciplines have grown into my current, seemingly dichotomous life:

Music and Design are one in the same to me – each possessing so many similar traits and principles that I have a difficult time separating them from each other.  For me, one informs the other.  One is the student of the other.  Almost without exception, when I learn something in music, I can immediately apply it to design.  While teaching Advanced Conducting, one of the most important traits that I aim to instill within each student is the skill to develop constant awareness of all things:  awareness of every detail that is happening at any one moment; awareness of the overall impression of the musical phrase; how each musical phrase impacts the next; how rhythm, melodic flow and dominance, harmonic dissonance and consonance, balance, movement through time, intention of direction toward a specific climax or focal point, and ultimate intention of cadence at the moment of resolution and rest – how all these must work together to bring about a musical experience that invites, speaks, moves, and ultimately impacts the listener in some intentional way.  Learning about the importance of constant awareness within music is always teaching me about these very same principles within design. 

Design teaches and informs music, as well:  Because design is “more visual” and music is “more auditory,” one can tend to see colors more readily within the context of design.  But music is also all about color.  Synesthesia is the neurological phenomenon causing a person to see music as color.  Synesthetes involuntarily see music as visual color.  Because I am not innately-gifted in this way (I am not a natural synesthete), I can use the principles of understanding color within design to apply these same principles to the making of music.  Using certain colors creates connection within music.  The study of balance and scale is also a more visual principle for me than an auditory one.  When I create auditory music, I actually visualize the scale of the musical components – one against the other – in the same way that I would design a building or decide the components within a space. 

The study of color, visual elements, balance and scale – among many other principles in design – teach me how design can inform music-making.  The structures of music and design are clearly similar.  One can teach the other and is constantly doing so in my life.

I love having multiple teachers in my daily existence.  I love to learn.  I am a constant student of my surroundings, of space, of time, of the impact one has on the other, and of the overwhelming interest this can create in people – whether or not they have any awareness of its presence around them. 

This is the life of the musician.  This is the life of the designer:  Being aware of the details constantly surrounding us.  This is who I am.