Thursday, August 5, 2010

VTS: Rhythm and Design

Visual Thinking School
Rhythm and Design, exploring the synchronicity of music structure and visual design.

Thursday, August 5, 2010
Run by: Graham Barey
Notes by: Graham Barey

Attendees: Many

Libations: Plentiful

Ingredients: YouTube, audio speakers, whiteboard, chart paper, markers, transparencies, about a hundred envelopes, scissors, photos, love


4:00 pm - Welcome
Soon after four o'clock the Ant room was crowded with attendees for VTS. As this was my first public-facing session I was a little nervous. Even though I had done hours of preparation and public speaking is nothing new to me, it was a different experience as these people were here to learn something. Scary. Once the people were settled we began with a welcome and a brief introduction to the topic.

4:10 pm - Ice Breaker

The ice breaker I thought of involved each person sketching their name on one side of a note card and their favorite band or musician on the reverse side. This proved to be a little more difficult and limiting in terms of creativity than I intended. Still, the desired effect was achieved and we moved into a more detailed description of the topic.

4:30 pm - Background Information and Exercise One
Before the first pens hit paper participants were given some background on how popular music is organized structurally and how that structure applies to visual design. This introductory information should probably have been more robust (as was mentioned later in plus/delta) as many of the people in the room didn't have experience with making music. My interest in keeping the background information short was to get people moving quickly and not spend much time talking, which, as anyone who knows me will tell you, is something I am prone to do. After this brief lesson in music structure participants were asked to draw their interpretation of how 4/4 rhythm would be represented visually on a simple grid. Most people came up with similar renderings and, in retrospect, this exercise was probably extraneous.

5:00 pm - Listening and Exercise 2
Next the group listened to a selection of Rakim's song "When I Be On Da Mic" to begin to grasp 16/8 verse/chorus song structure. Next, color transparencies were distributed to give the group an opportunity to arrange compositions constructed from them which would be informed by the music structure we had just listened to. This exercise proved more effective than the first one. Compositions were meant to emphasize the 2-to-1 structure of popular music.

5:30 pm - Listening and Exercise 3
The final exercise of the night was to reinforce a new concept, that of surprise. In a rhythmic composition whether musical or visual an element that stands apart from the repetition helps to attract attention and add interest. To this end and as example we listened to "Come On Feet" by Quasimoto. A set of photos and letter forms were distributed to the group to use to make a new image which would reflect all the concepts they had learned to that point. Below the fruit of this exercise is shown.

6:00 pm - Plus/Delta
The goal of the night was to introduce participants to the rudiments of music structure and show how and why they apply to the medium of graphic design. This goal was achieved but could have been added to with a more effective instructional base at the outset. In the end, everyone had a good time and learned a little bit so even though there were bumps in the process the VTS was a success.

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