When I was a sophomore in college, I made my first attempt at painting music. I don’t know if I was very successful, but the experiment went like this. In my theory class, we had to write an example of a tonal modulation. We had to begin in the key of E minor and modulate to one of the other 5 related keys: G major, C major, D, major, A minor or B minor. I ended my example in D major by using an E minor chord as a common chord. The example was about two measure and was written in four voices, like you would find in a Bach four-part chorale.
I showed my musical example to my freshman academic adviser, Randy. He is an art professor, but I had him for the freshman seminar which all incoming freshman were required to take. I asked Randy if he would help me make my two measure example into a painting. He agreed and we began our experiment.
Creating my visual masterpiece took a few attempts, but here is what I ended up finally doing. I took a large piece of water color paper and painted 2 thirds of it blue to represent E minor and painted the remainder of the paper green to represent D major. These visual representations were based on my own personal perceptions of these two keys.
Now how did I represent the notes in the chorale and their durations? Randy gave me a book that consisted of color samples. He told me to cut the colors out that best represented the notes in the example. Shorter notes were cut closer to the shape of a square while longer note values were cut more in the shape of a rectangle. It was not an easy task to do as matching up the colors to my own perceptions was very challenging. Therefore, I had to chose the ones that were as close to the original as possible.
I arranged the “notes” on the panted paper in the same manner as it appeared on the staff. The example moved from left to write and the voices were arranged in their conventional order: bass, tenor, alto soprano. Once the notes were glued in their respectful places, the work was finished. It turned out to be pretty cool and I titled it From E Minor to D Major.
Once I finished the work, I gave it to Joyce, the professor of the theory class in which I had done the initial assignment. I had given it to her as a Christmas gift. Joyce became my academic adviser in my Sophomore year. It was that same year that I became interested in composing music and began studying composition with her as well. Even after all these years, I still have close ties to both Randy and Joyce. I don’t know if Joyce still has the painting, but I am glad we still have our friendship. That’s more important.