There has been a great exhibition at the Tate Modern, which is just coming to an end. “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.” A fascinating account of, mainly, art in the 60s and 70s by a range of black American artists. Some very real, related to the conflicts of the time; other pieces abstract, testing the imagination. Amongst the latter were two works which related music to colour and shape.
The first was a canvass by William T.Williams, entitled “Trane”. An abstract work which the artist saw as a reflection of the abstraction of John Coltrane’s music, that wild, emotional saxophone. I could see that – once I had read the description on the wall, of course.
The second was an artefact, a piece of wood, a sculpture, I guess. By the artist Daniel LaRue Johnson, and called D9 Flat 5th. A bebop jazz chord, comprising D, F, A flat, C and E. Way beyond my guitar capability! Which colour is which note? I don’t know. But think of the combination as the chord.
It’s all about perception, this stuff. You have to put yourself in the minds of the artists, think about how a sound might be represented by a colour. We’d all give varied answers to the same sounds. Because we are all different, and our perceptions of the same things vary widely. We all need to understand that and respect the differences. Which, of course, doesn’t happen a lot of the time.
But maybe art, including music, can help us understand what unites us, and what reflects our differences.