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Field Trip | No.30
Field Trip is a newsletter exploring life through the lens of a designer. Mostly essays, notes and things of interest found along the way.
I love to write and read to purely instrumental music, it’s also the only music I can design to sometimes if I really need to focus. I’ve been listening to this playlist I made a lot lately; a mix of ambient, film and modern classical music.
As I went to design the cover for the playlist I found graphic notations made by Toshi Ichiyanagi (graphic notation is the representation of music through the use of visual symbols outside the realm of traditional music notation) and ended up going down a rabbit hole of graphic scores made by composers.
Toshi Ichiyanagi is one of the most famous Japanese composers of the 20th century and was a member of Fluxus, an international, interdisciplinary community of artists, composers, designers and poets during the 1960s and 1970s. It was difficult to find much information on his notations but they were made using stamped ink on transparentised paper. The scores would be supported by instructions and a key showing what each symbol represents musically.
Music for Writing
I love that if seen out of context Ichiyanagi’s scores look like random compositions and artworks in their own right. They remind me of drawings by Kandinsky and El Lissitzky. I have no idea how to read music no matter how it’s been written, but pulling visual inspiration from Ichiyanagi’s works, I designed a few bits for the playlist.
I made some further compositions by randomly hitting: tidy up, distribute vertical spacing and distribute horizontal spacing a bunch of times, which did a concerningly good job of creating cool layouts using the same elements repeatedly. I formed an animated loop from the comps which you can see here.
The relationship between design and music is endlessly interesting and as I listen to more genres of music, the more fascinating it becomes to find things like graphic notations. Some of my favourite designers are in the music industry and I love music design that incorporates imagery, texture, type etc. but it was fun to explore music visuals in a more literal sense.