So I did a bit more research and came across visual music, an art form where a lot of people are creating visualizations of music. All of these were moving image computer generated videos such as this video by Nancy Herman
In a later development of this idea Herman has varied the shapes to show a bit of the articulation and phrasing but I still feel this only partially represents the details of the music and does not represent the aesthetic of the piece.
Herman began by creating these images as color in space, and although I feel these also suffer from many of the same aspects of narrow interpretation I do find it interesting how she has used symmetry, this could be a way of showing form.
These are taken from a small section of a piece, sonata in a minor by Corelli. More examples are on her website. The pitches have been translated into color and the colors presented in 2 or 4 way symmetry. However 'accurate' this literal translation may be it does nothing to represent the aesthetic of the music.
It is interesting to discover that Nancy Herman, in trying to create an instrument that can recreate sound with color, is following on from a long tradition of curious people who have also tried this. As early as 1740 there are records of composers creating and using 'color organs,' instruments that use light to create colors representing pitches.
This research has really helped me focus my ideas, while I do want to explore representing specific elements of music, this has to accompany an expressive interpretation of the aesthetic.
An artist who has also used music to develop the expressiveness of her art is Georgia O'Keefe.
In this work Music - Pink and Blue No. 2 painted in the early part of her career, 1918, O' Keefe was one of the pioneers of abstraction. Her teacher, Arthur Wesley Dow, encouraged her to reject representation and express her ideas through colors lines and shapes. He saw music as 'the key to the other fine arts' and had his students draw their responses to music as an exercise in free expression. ("Moma | Inventing Abstraction")
It would be fascinating to know exactly what music O'Keefe listened to, and why she chose to interpret in the way she did. I find this interesting because it is one still image representing a moving sound. To do this she must have interpreted the whole, or a whole section of the piece, it is not broken down into individual pitches. Many liken this work to later flower paintings and it is certainly unmistakably her individual style, so while she has represented the aesthetic of the music, she has also expressed her own individual aesthetic. The layers of pulsating curves make me imagine rich harmony. The soft pastel colors evoke the soft sound of voices and wind instruments.
These two contrasting examples show music can be expressed visually in very different ways and for very different reasons. By analyzing these I am starting to get a sense of how I may interpret music myself. I do want to show some sense of the music moving through time, but I am not interested in digital art forms at all. I can see some potential in a series of prints, although I can't visualize how this could be representational in any way.
"Moma | Inventing Abstraction". Moma.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 3 Dec. 2016.