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Thursday, 2 December 2010

Drawing Without Moving

"I is not only able to hear the music that dreams is making but I is understanding it also the BFG said. It is like a langwitch"

I have been drawing the Brian Eno Track 1/1 'Ambient 1: Music for Airports intermittently since July. It is around 17 minutes long and I have drawn it a total of 16 times, 12 on the same day and 6 in the same drawing. It has become something of an obsession. All of the drawings are monochrome made using combinations of ink, pen, graphite, chalk and charcoal. They vary in scale and format, with later ones taking the form of scrolls. I have drawn with the paper on a table or on the floor drawing around myself as I listen (fig 1); I have worn headphones and a thick black blindfold at times, all in the attempt to ‘get it’.
fig 1

‘Getting it’ has been not so much a problem but the reason for obsessively repeat drawing just one track. This piece of sound differs from other music I have drawn in a few ways. Usually my music drawings are a record of my experience of listening, my emotional and physical response to the song/s. With the Eno track it is more of an abstract sensation, it does not provoke much physical movement in me. The ‘usual’ rhythms and beats that I ‘fall into’ when drawing, are not present in the Eno track. Though this is not exclusive drawing Jeff Buckley’s ‘Hallelujah’ for example, moves my mind more readily than my body. The only way I can describe it is that by listening to this track, I am watching a ready-made drawing, and my actions are only tracing what I am seeing. I have battled with this; I don’t want to trace, but rather to express my own experience of it.

fig 2
fig 2a (Detail)

The track appears deceptively simple, precise, but after listening to it as many times as I have it continues to give, and to surprise. I have no doubt that drawing this particular piece of music is a great exercise in listening, something that is good to go back to, to re align my drawing process. I am hesitant about whether I should keep pushing the drawings of it however. Someone commented on some of the scroll drawings and said they look like a WAV file on a computer screen, and so they look like music. For some reason this makes me uncomfortable; we only know what music ‘looks like’ when it has been traced by a machine, which creates lines that follow each detail of the sound, mapping it. That is not my intention with my drawings, as it removes my experience of listening, and of feeling.

fig 3
fig 3a (Detail)

The drawings of this track that I like best, are those where I have begun to develop my own language whilst listening, almost like hieroglyphs (fig 3, 3a). They remind me of Traditional Chinese landscape paintings (fig 2, 2a), and ‘landscape’ feels right, as this track is the one that has taken me furthest from my conscious self. At the end of each 17 minutes of listening/drawing I feel I have returned from a journey, which despite its familiarity always takes me down a new undiscovered path. It has at times felt close to meditation. In fact my favorite drawing of it is one in which I struggled to stay awake, I had let myself become that lost in it. The marks I made, were made whilst barely moving, when I was moved, I literally marked it, for the rest of the time I just let it take me (fig 4, 5) .

( Detail ) fig 4
( Detail ) fig 5

I don’t think I will ever draw this track and know it is ‘done’, but I do think I will re visit it. It is a good test of how I measure the quality of my music drawings. I have said many times now, that I know a drawing is right when it looks like my experience of listening to that piece of music. I will adjust my position and materials accordingly until it ‘works’. It should not look like sound, but look like listening. With Eno’s track, who himself has pushed the ways in which sound and vision relate, it is harder to produce a drawn response, it makes me (pleasantly) still. I keep coming back to the idea that this track is already a completed a drawing, which may be hard to understand if you haven’t attempted to draw it. For me listening to it, with the intent to draw, is a decision between tracing, or collaborating with it and making it my own.

To see all Brian Eno Track 1/1 'Ambient 1: Music for Airports drawings follow this link LINK to Eno Track drawings

To see all music drawings follow this link LINK to all music drawings

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