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The Journal of Aesthetic Education 37.4 (2003) 73-84

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One Form of Synthetic Art Education

"Music-picture (a picture drawn through musical perception)" has been widely accepted by art educators in Japan. The purpose of this essay is to propose the making of music-pictures as art education and to put it on afirm theoretical base. I first investigate three gestalt rules: adjacency, continuance, and resemblance, all of which are applicable to the senses of both seeing and hearing. Next I present research on color hearing as one version ofsynaesthesia, which is the comprehensive faculty that binds the five senses in various ways. The well-organized music-picture program by Kaoru Sasaki 1 is introduced as an example. 2 The synthetic art-educational value of music-picture will become clearer through these examinations.

The Interrelations between Visual Arts and Music

It is exciting that the visual arts meet music in an art class, even if these subjects are entirely different in regard to media, expressive form, the category of perception, and mastery of techniques. Put simply, Picasso's works are visible, whereas Stravinsky's pieces are invisible. Nevertheless, both powerfully convey imaginative and often narrative messages. Relying on intuition alone, I firmly believe both are interchangeable.

My research on common methods of organizing both recorded music and painting was my first observation of the mutual relationship between music and visual arts. 3 But what I considered then would not be applied to art class directly because the research was based on my practical experience. It did not have any educational goals. Now I recognize that instructive approaches are necessary to lay the foundation for art classes dealing with interaction between two distinct modalities.

In Japan, the Ministry of Education and Science provides the government curriculum guidelines nearly every ten years. It contains descriptions on two subjects: The visual arts and music taught in these classes are at an elementary school level and a junior high school level, both located within a compulsory education system. The new version has been in force since April 2002 (the new school term starts in April in Japan). Objectives in the two educational fields are similar and ideas of what art and music education ought to be are almost the same. The aim common to both in the government curriculum guidelines: "Through expression and appreciation, we [End Page 73] cultivate students' sentiments" invites the linking of music and the visual arts across the curriculum.

Many art educators in Japan are interested in this sort of idea and have actually put it into practice. 4 They are engaged in interrelating or even unifying music and the visual arts. Additionally I know other teachers who have designed and proposed many ideas toward this crossover. Listed below are general ideas that seek to combine visual arts with music in an art class.

1) Music-picture: to make a pictorial description of impressions received from music.

2) Sound map: to make a map of sounds heard at a given location. Each sound is visualized by simple marks like - - -, <<<, ~~~, ooo, and xxx.

3) Graphic notation: to write a score which directs the details, whole form, and progression of music by graphics instead of staff notation. Using onomatopoeias or instructions by words are common. It can be improvised, based on intuitively translating visual impacts into sounds.

4) Sound toy: to make an original musical instrument of familiar easil obtained materials. For instance, a corrugated cardboard ukulele whose strings are rubber bands, a pair of maracas made of empty cans and soybeans, and so forth.

5) Sound sculpture: to make sculpture producing interesting sounds (sometimes noises like creak or clatter). Extensive genres: wood sculpture, metal construction, assemblage (junk arts), kinetic arts, and so on.

6) Sound installation: to make a place where participants experience sounds generated by objects or equipment.

7) Multimedia: in the broad sense, to mix visuals with music; noises like jingle, tap, and bang! in daily life, or natural environmental sounds like a pit-a-pat of falling rain, a whisper of leaves, or...


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