While many artists have believed music and art to have a potent connection, it has hardly been manifested so uniquely as in The Big Draw’s I Write The Songs event. Part of the River to River Festival around the coasts of New York City (and co-produced by The Drawing Center), I Write The Songs literally demonstrates how art can be music and how music can be art.
Before actually entering the Winter Garden room of the World Financial Center in Battery Park, unearthly string-produced sounds can be heard from the neighboring promenade of Esplanade Plaza. As always, inside the vastly spacious Winter Garden room does not feel like inside — large palm trees litter the hall and the walls and ceiling are glass. Still, today is different. For where there are normally benches and walking passerby, is a stage. Standing or sitting about the stage are congregations of eager, temporary artists, and in few minutes time, composers.
Performing is a string ensemble, the Brooklyn-based, FLUX Quartet, and in front of each musician’s stand is a television. Connecting the stage to a lifeguard-esque post maybe twenty feet away is a clothespin line that is not hanging clothes, but rather, drawings on old music scores.
Inspired by 19th-century artist/art critic John Ruskin’s idea that visual art can help people see, I Write The Songs goes further to suggest that visual art can also help people hear.
In collaboration with NY-based artist Suzanne Bocanegra, I Write The Songs literally gives people the opportunity to experience the translation of visual art into musical art. The way it works is this — a person draws a picture on a recycled music score and hands it to the post-persons who clip it to the clothespin line that slowly wheels its way towards the stage. Each musician of the quartet then receives a person’s drawing that is then displayed on the screen in front of each musician’s music stand. Finally, each musician of the FLUX Quartet interprets and plays a person’s drawing for a good twenty or thirty seconds for the people to literally hear their own artwork. Check it out:
As a free event for everyone, many take to the recycled music sheets and draw pictures of music they want to hear. Some suggestions from the event’s program are: silence, the noise inside your head, the space between your ears, a loud sound, a soft sound, all the circles you can see right now. Clearly, the art created is different for every person.
The seriously cool part of the event is the transformation of everyone’s individual art into music. A picture has dark, black scribbles all over the sheet music and dissonant, loud, biting chords emit from the violin or viola or cello. A stick-figure drawing of a couple surrounded by thick, cherry-red hearts reaches the stage and delightful, beautiful melodies convey sweet love.
I draw a picture of a little, pig-tailed girl dreaming about ice cream, candy, and cake. My sweet-toothed cartoon floats over passerby heads to the stage where it appears on the screen in front of the second violinist. After a brief moment of analyzing my drawing, he begins with a soft, sugary hum that sounds like pushing open a door and entering a cave filled with mountains and mountains of lost treasure. Or cupcakes.