Music and Photography

October 18, 2021

Light mist over the Flood Plain with all Saints chrch spire


As I was driving to one of my calls recently, I had my music on through the car sound system. There was a time I would have said stereo, but sound system is very “now”.

I have a large and diverse taste in music but on this day, I was thinking not about the genre but the music itself. Why, for instance do I like certain pieces and others not so much? Why do I like certain instruments? To give an example I have the Beethoven sonatas and Guns and roses. Some of the sonata’s sound like someone trying to be clever but sweet child of mine, which is based on a musical exercise sounds brilliant.

Why do some pieces of music really resonate while others I like, but?

It’s about a story. Some pieces tell a story and again I am drawing comparisons to photography. I have this vision, maybe false, of a composer sat at a desk being moved by something. Trying to relate this to their life and writing a piece. In this they put musical phrases that capture the emotions, little signposts to say “look, this is how I feel about this come with me on this journey” and away we go.

Photographers also use visual signposts in their shots. Little things that say to the viewer look at this. This is what it means to be this person, how this place makes me feel. This is what I want you to feel. At this time and at this place.

Consequently, both direct us in what they say and how they make us think. A piece of music may make us cry and we listen to it again while a good image goes on the wall, and we look at it again finding new subtle things within it. New hints as to what the photographer was trying to say at that time.

Ever noticed how cover songs, no matter how good, are never quite the same as the original. This comes down to interpretation. The musician that takes the song or piece of music looks and responds to it differently from the original artist. We have a set of signs which we look for and they may not be emphasised in quite the same way and the song has a different meaning.

In the same way, if I were to go to Yosemite National Park and try and recreate some of Adams work. It may be good but not the same. Two people having 2 sets of ideas and working the scene come up with 2 similar but very different shots. My story and my interpretation of the story are very different. Hence two different images. It may be that mine is better than Adams, highly unlikely, but it may resonate with you, the viewer, more strongly but in a different way. To a certain extent, the originality of the scene has gone.

To give an example of this. I listen to the “Sound of Silence.”. Both by Simon and Garfunkel and by Disturbed. This is one of the few cases where the cover is better. Disturbed carries a much different set of stories to the original. It seems to have depth where the original, while good, don’t get me wrong here, seems light. Different interpretations. When I did a project on songs/music, I chose this song the results are below. Again, a different set of interpretations.

Both photographs and music can take us on journeys. They can unlock hidden memories and suggest unforeseen connections between places and people. Landscape images always make me wistful for escape into the wilds.

Having said about using musical phrases and signs within images it makes it all seem rather mechanical and lacking in feeling. This is not the case though. Most people get caught up in the moment and work on a more automatic basis and one thing truly does lead to another and so good work starts to appear. Music and Photography.

Another question, do we spend too much time looking and composing rather than working with the underlying feeling that we have, then too much time finishing the perfect shot in the computer. Like the Beethoven Sonata which just sounds, to me, like so much practice. Images that convey little or nothing of substance. I am not suggesting that we stop composing, but in searching for the perfect image do we lose out somewhere? Do we try too hard?

Having said this, we can draw inspiration for our images from music, or look at our images and see a specific piece of music that would work with it. Some of my dawn shots require a piece like Nimrod by Elgar.

What better way to start the day? Sunrise and Elgar blasting out. But this is my own set of symbols. How I feel about the start of the day. Yours may be and probably is different.


Thank you so much for reading, if you want to look at my Instagram feed it can be found HERE





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