Thursday, 10:11am
18 August 2011

Design, music, magic

Revisiting Eye’s music design special in the run up to Vision Sound Music

Vision Sound Music, ‘the UKʼs first festival of music for visuals’, opens at London’s South Bank Centre early next month (2 > 4 September 2011). The schedule includes several talks about live music visuals and music television, Nitin Sawhney discussing how to compose video game music and Kate Moross explaining how to ‘lead with design in a music world’.

So it seems an opportune moment to look back to Eye 76, the music design special issue from last summer.

Top: Blues by Basie, design by Alex Steinweiss. Eye 76 includes a ‘Reputations’ interview with Steinweiss, the father of the album sleeve. Sadly he passed away this July.

‘Given the potential emotional and visceral power stirred by music of all kinds, can we now look forward to some new and genuinely meaningful association between sound and vision?’, asks Eye editor John Walters in ‘Sound and vision’. ‘Let’s welcome the birth of an era in which entertainment, culture, technology and commerce can demand (and get) more from music design than ever before.largeimg-8.php

Above and below: In ‘Make music visible’, Eye 76 explores the work of Big Active: ‘Their do-it-yourself art direction campaign for Beck’s The Information, for which fans could assemble their own cover using a sheet of stickers, chimed with Beck’s own musings about the dematerialisation of music, bringing relational aesthetics to the pop charts, and providing another opportunity for Big Active’s “family” to shine in public: the sticker sheet features twenty different illustrators.’

Beck stickers

Below: design by Barbara Wojirsch for ECM, 1990. In ‘One man brand?’, Adrian Shaughnessy argues that ‘while it’s clear that ECM remains a beacon of visual integrity in what the music writer Ian Penman calls the world of ‘hi-sheen graphix … hi-budget campaigns [and] CD hygiene’, [the] new generation of ECM cover art lacks the inventive flair and creative sensitivity of the work done by the label’s most accomplished designer, the great Barbara Wojirsch.’



Above: spread from Eye’s interview with Vaughan Oliver, discussing his box set design for the Pixies’ Minotaur box set (2009). ‘The Pixies were one of the most inspirational bands I’d worked with … Close to my themes, the dark sense of humour, the surrealism, the sex and lust and lust and sex and all of that … and full of images, even though we didn’t try to illustrate those images. We just worked on the themes to build an atmosphere, to create a mood.’

Below: Spread from ‘Every shop is a gallery’, by Kate Moross. ‘The most important thing was to pay attention to the aesthetic format of the record, to embrace print as a medium, to create something that’s worth more than its manufacturing costs, and that has longevity. Each release is like a series of artist’s prints that you listen to.’



Above: Cover of Eye 76. This issue is available to buy as a back issue at the Eye shop, and you can get a taste of its visuals from Eye before you buy on Issuu.

Just as ‘Vision Sound Music’ opens its doors in London, digital culture festival Abandon Normal Devices will be bringing an extensive calendar of events to the north of England. That festival takes its name from Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies, a set of cards devised as a way of circumventing ingrained habits of thought and resolving creative blocks encountered when producing music and art. The user draws a card from the pack, and tries to apply the random instruction to the problem at hand. Examples include ‘Discard an axiom’, ‘What mistakes did you make last time?’, ‘Overtly resist change’ – and ‘Abandon normal instruments’ (see the short piece ‘Oblique Strategies’ in Eye 24).

2 > 4 September 2011
Vision Sound Music
Southbank Centre
London SE1 8XX

1 September > 2 October 2011
Abandon Normal Devices
Various venues
Manchester, Liverpool, Lancashire and Cumbria

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop. For a taste of the current issue, see Eye before you buy on Issuu. Eye 80, Summer 2011, is out now.