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The Power of Music

by Keith Bond on 3/2/2010 9:47:34 AM

This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

One evening, while giving my toddler a bath, I was belting out a rock ballad at the top of my lungs.  I think it might have been something from Journey.  A few minutes later my wife commented, “By the way, did you know Emily was here?”  Apparently, while I was pouring my heart out to my soapy son, my wife’s friend showed up.  I sing so often, my wife hadn’t even noticed until her friend said something like, “I didn’t know Keith sang like that.”  I wonder what she meant by “like that”!  Needless to say, I felt stupid.   

What does this have to do with art?  Patience, please.  I’ll get there.

Another of my musical outlets does drive my wife nuts.  I tap on everything.  I play the “drums” on the table, the steering wheel, or the chair.  Occasionally I will even play the air guitar, but that is mostly to drive my children nuts.  Whenever I get out my real guitar or djembe, my kids want to play and my practice time becomes their performance time instead.

If I really want to get my kids riled, I pull out my old headphones that weigh more than my own head.  They were once recording studio headphones (from ages ago), and I try to convince my kids of how great the music sounds with those headphones.  But instead they just tease me.  It’s great!

I only come clean on these things to illustrate a point.  I love music.  Music is so important to me, that I appreciate almost all kinds.  I love rock (in all its variety – from hard to alternative to soft rock), country (especially the old country that my parents listened to), jazz, blues and classical.  I even have a lot of world music and fusion music.  I literally have all types of music from all over the world.  Music is a part of me almost as much as my art.  And it is a major part of my art.  I must listen to music while creating my art in the studio.  However, when painting en plein air, I listen only to the sounds of nature instead of music.  

Part of my routine before painting in the studio is to select the music I want to listen to.  It is almost ritualistic.  From day to day my moods change – and so would my music.  Recently I noticed something fascinating.  Whenever I would select classical music, I was more likely to get into the zone quicker.  I was intrigued by that.  But I still loved my other music.  So, like my stubborn children, I chose what I wanted at the moment instead of what would eventually give me something even better.

But now I find that I am selecting classical music more frequently.  In fact, I would say that it has become the predominant choice.  The past couple months, I have listened to nothing but classical while painting.  I do have a wide assortment of classical music to choose from.  I am able to select something for just about any mood.

I am certainly no expert on the influence of music.  But I have made several interesting observations.  I am sure it may even go much deeper than my observations. 

When I gave little thought to what music I was selecting, I may have chosen something that didn’t match the mood I was attempting to express in my painting.  For example, I may have been in the mood to listen to something that would get me worked up or excited, yet I would be trying to paint a scene of tranquility.  I found it difficult to get into the zone when I was conflicted in the stimuli.

By selecting classical music, I am more likely to choose music that has a mood similar to that of the painting I am working on.  This makes it much easier for me to connect on multiple levels with the artwork I am creating.  I try to match the mood of the music to the mood of the painting.

So, I would suggest considering how your surroundings influence what you are creating.  If music is a part of your artistic creation, are you using it to your benefit, or are you working against it?  I am not suggesting that you must use classical, as I have begun to do.  I am merely suggesting that you become aware of how outside influences (music for example, but there are also others), can help or hinder you in your creative modes.  Once you become aware, then you can decide if it is enough of an influence to warrant a change.  This is entirely personal.  You must decide.  For me, it was enough of an influence.  I have witnessed wonderful things by more carefully selecting my music.

I am interested in your experiences.  Are they similar, or not.  Please share them.

Again, I realize that everyone works differently.  This is merely food for thought – and perhaps an experiment.  Remember, I didn’t even realize how music was influencing me until recently.  Maybe try experimenting and see what happens.  Good luck.

Best Wishes,

Keith Bond

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Leslie Saeta
Two and a half years ago I took a workshop with Scott Christensen. As students, one of the best gifts we were able to take home was his music playlist! Scott had a very random selection of music that he listened to while painting his demos. (I recently heard that he now listens to classical music so I am sure he has forgotten the impact his playlist had on me!)
Two and a half years later I still listen to his playlist. Not all of the time (I promise) but I realized a year ago that when I listed to his music I am taken back to his beautiful home in Idaho, his studio and his amazing artistic talent. I do believe my paintings come off the easel with ease when I listen to his playlist!

K. Henderson
I never listen to music. I mean NEVER. I listen to audio books while I paint. I can get into the zone with the droning of a voice. I also listen to movies on my DVD player but the movie has to have a lot of dialog.

Sheryl Knight
I really enjoyed Keith's article today on music. I can relate as I often play music, and classical, and it helps me focus and ignore the many distractions, kind of keeps me in the zone of what I am creating. I love it.

Great story Keith! Thanks.

Carl Purcell
I was glad to read your article.
I always listen to music while I paint, and find that the rhythm of the music is intertwined with the rhythm of my brushstrokes.

I remember during my formal years of art training the principle of rhythm was always listed at the end of the list-after contrast, unity etc. But it was never discussed, as if it really belonged to music and was only occasionally used in visual art.

Over the years, rhythm has moved up the list for me, and now resides in a cluster with contrast and transition. Everything I paint sings to me, and I see subjects as visual symphonies. Music is the flip side of my visual art, and rhythm the energy that propels both. I can't paint in a sound-dead studio. Like you, I choose the music to suit the painting.
Thank you for your insightful article.

Helen Horn Musser
Hi Keith, You are so right to sing with passion and volumn. Who cares what others think. As artists we are in tune with all facets of the arts. Musical, drama, comedy, ect.. I have, also, found classical to be perfect for listening while painting. I still listen to more popular music too. I would highly recommend The Teaching Company for classical music; they also publish and sell cd's for great artist and their art. The instructors put it in the right pocket of history. It is a wealth of information.

Peace and Joy,
Helen Horn Musser

Dorothy Siclare
Keith, music is s huge part of my life. The first thing I do at 6:30 am, after putting up coffee, is turn on my meditation,new age or light classical station in the kitchen....that remains on all day. It centers me. As I go to and fro. studio to kitchen to laundry to studio...I am listening but in an unconcious sort of way. If someone turns it off I become very aware of the silence, almost as if it's a loud uncomfortable noise.

I have to paint with music...all differnt kinds...I love the choices on AOL radio and so I skip from one type to another. It's a prerequisite for "in the zone" painting...I get lost in the music and in my painting...a very nice place to get lost.

On the flip side....I have a art teacher/friend who cannot stand to paint with music, finds it very distracting and never has it on in her studio.

Whatever floats your boat!

Helen Horn Musser
P. S. The Teaching Company; WWW.TEACH12.COM

Lorraine Khachatourians
I have classical music on all the time during the day, and then jazz in the later afternoon. But when I am starting a new painting, I have 2 cds that I use to get me going. The one I use most is Sting's 'All this Time', and the other is Jennifer Warnes' 'Famous Blue Raincoat' (singing Leonard Cohen's songs). They get me up and moving which I love to do when getting the underpainting going. Once I am working on the final parts though, I usually sit down and I go back to the classics and jazz. Outside, like you, I just like the sounds of nature.

Jean R. Skipper
Recently I realized that I'd gotten into a routine of leaving my television on at a low level in the background whenever I was in my studio. I never *watched* it; but the noise was becoming the soundtrack of my studio time, and acknowledged or not, it was a distraction.

Lately I've been making a conscious effort to choose music or silence while in the studio, and it's had a positive impact on my work.

Great thoughts!

M S Cardany
Yes! Agree with your commentary. I would think all visual artists love music.

I would add that while drawing, especially gestures or short poses, I often "fire up" with energetic groups like Earth, Wind and Fire, or similar heavy beat music. Mowtown is great too.

I find it easier to use music to stretch my body and loosen up before touching a pencil or brush.

For 'zone' work - classical always!

Jill C. Musser
Interesting article, Mr. Bond, because I also love almost every type of music in my studio. I believe that classical music has an excellent slightly subliminal effect while painting. One is not so inclined to sing along as with popular music, especially, vocals. So going into the zone is more likely with classical, because the brain is not as actively involved with the music, yet it has a wonderful, calming, exciting and/or stimulating effect while painting. At least that is how it affects me! I think classical music is the most conducive to painting creativity.

Diane Tasselmyer
K. Henderson mentioned listening to books on tape, which is fine as long as they are not distracting. I do that too, but only books I have have already read, and only certain readers...George Guidall is a classic reader.
I have felt a bit out when I did not respond to music while I am painting. I'm glad I am not the only one!!!!!

Brad Blackman
I tend to listen to ambient/electronica as it creates a sort of "noise" with a rhythm with no vocals, but the past few years I have found podcasts tend to help. I seem to paint faster somehow.

I, too, listen to books while painting. Funny how different brains are wired. I've never been able to sit still and focus on just one task. Even watching TV, I'll have a painting book on my lap or I'll be surfing the net. I guess listening to a book keeps some of the brain cells busy so the others can focus on my painting.

Sharon Markwardt
I also love to paint to classical music, though I listen to Country and rock in my truck. I cannot get into the zone when lyrics are present, because I keep getting pulled into that "left-brained" verbal mode. Since I put my photo references on my laptop, I run while I paint. It allows me to customize the types of music I want without interruption to change CDs, or listen to commercials, and I get to hear music that is new to me. Try it!

Julie Petro
I find music really helps my creative process, especially music that's not really demanding to my thought process, which basically amounts to some sort of ambient music, instrumental pieces or anything that's, I guess, "trance-inducing" would be a good way to describe it. Classical music is, well, a classic. I've tried using audiobooks and streaming TV into my studio through Hulu (that I mostly end up listening to rather than actually watching), but I've found that those tend to pull my attention away from my work too much, especially if they're stories I haven't seen yet. Books I've read before or programs I've already seen seem to work the best.

I've been using Pandora Radio ( to build my own stations based on some keywords, an artist I might like, then giving each piece a thumbs-up or thumbs-down as it's played. I especially like this because I'm not very knowledgeable about music and Pandora constantly pulls up music I'm not familiar with. Lately I've been building a jazz station built on David Brubeck and I'm pretty excited to fire it in the studio this week.

Julie Petro
On a completely unrelated note, I'm sort of bummed that all my apostrophes seem to show up as quotation marks. Huh.

Karen Winters
I'm going to second Julie's comment about Pandora radio. I have different "stations" I listen to for different moods, and the subject matter of the painting often affects my choice of "station" to play. It's very helpful to keep me in a certain mood when I'm painting in studio. When painting plein air, I let the birds and trees provide the music!

Hi Keith and commentors,
So almost all of you wrote about the importance of music in your life. Are you all ready for a head-shake?
This morning's news, Des Moines, Iowa--- Just like everywhere else budgets are tight, Des Moines is right in there in the thick of it. They have announced cutting 300 teachers district wide, AND that some teachers will be required to do dual-duty, take on additional work load. Some wise people on the board think it would be a great idea to have music and art teachers teach physical education. We suppose they, like so many before them, consider music and art to be expendable? Teaching music and art requires no effort so surely those teachers have spare time on their hands? Music doesn't impact your future like english or geography? Dios mio, when will they ever learn?
Later, Cooper

Nancy Cupp
I enjoyed Keith's article on music.I think that music and art are the universal language of the soul and spirit, and can be understood by all cultures and races, even when we can't understand the spoken language. Music creates moods, memories, feelings, etc, in a way not conveyed by the spoken word. Art and music compliment one another, because they are both universal in communicating ideas, without the necessity of words. Each enhances the other.

I also like listening to classical music when I'm doing art. It relaxes me and helps inspire me to go to that "inner place" where creativity comes. Some styles of music anger and agitate me, such as when the vocalists are screaming, like death metal. I can't stand that.

Music is also a spiritual thing, so I try to be careful what I listen to, so that the music has a positive underlying "message" of hope, faith, and inspiration. Even if there are not vocals, the "spirit" behind the musician and their music, can influence subliminally. If it agitates my spirit, then I know I better listen to something else. Music can bring out the creativeness in us, or cause us to go screaming through the streets. I prefer to stay home, paint, and enjoy my peace.

Trish Stevenson
If I'm feeling a bit timid with a blank canvas, I'll crank up a fast-paced Spanish Flamenco Guitar CD to get me going. When I work on wild rodeo stuff, it helps to have upbeat Country on. If I want be brave and creative, I put on a compilation of new music that my 20-something niece has sent me. And yes, classical seems to be the best for tranquility or very focused work.
Once in a blue moon I work in silence.

Leslie Saeta
Cooper - At least they are not asking physical education teachers to teach music and art! Although that wouldn't surprise me either! Such a shame that the budgets of our schools are being cut.

Leslie Saeta
Maybe we should all note which music we listen to while painting a painting. It would be really interesting to see if there is any consistency with specific music and really good paintings!

Wow, you really hit the target with me. In Alaska we deal with the dark in the winter months so I don't start painting until 10:30 am or more. SO music is needed to get me going. Upbeat music of all kinds for me. I recently discovered the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir after watching them back up a famous vocalist on some award show. I put them into Pandora and wow a sea lion face appeared for our Sea Life Center fundraiser! We invested in Pandora's Squeezebox and hooked it into our large speakers for great sound. I believe art comes from abundance in our hearts and music feeds part of what we need! Bonnie Raitt station also helps produce great art!

Donald Smith
My personal favorite is Pink Floyd. A lot of people don't like PF, they call it acid rock and for people high on drugs. I'm sure that people on drugs do listen to it, but I don't care about the stigmatism, I love their music. I think they were geniuses, and their incorporation of ordinary sounds, and using instruments in ways that most people don't is mind expanding.
They say a person can listen to some Mozart and it will increase their intelligence. I think the same is true of some of Pink Floyd's songs.
Painting and music have a lot in common, and I too love both, and have a variety of music to listen to. There are peaceful, calming, effects from viewing or listening to art or music, and other emotions as well. As a painting needs different textures and edges to create interest, so music must have variations on a theme. Unlike Boy George's -Chameleon” song which was extremely repetitious, other bands have what it takes to make a person listen over and over, which is one of the goals we have with art, to capture the interest of the viewer, and get to want to view our art over and over.
Even Pink Floyd's lyrics are full of visual stimulus, and could give an artist subjects for paintings.

-Yet Another Movie”
One sound, one single sound
one kiss, one single kiss,
a face outside the window pane,
however did it come to this?

A man who ran: a child who cried
a girl who heard, a voice that lied
the sun that burned a fiery red
the vision of an empty bed

The use of forge, he was so tough
she'll soon submit, she's had enough
the march of fate, the broken will
someone is lying very still

He has laughed and he has cried
he has fought and he has died
he's just the same as all the rest,
he's not the worst, he's not the best

And still this ceaseless murmuring,
the babbling that I brook,
the seas of faces, eyes upraised
the empty screen, the vacant look

A man in black on a snow white horse,
a pointless life has run it's course,
the red rimmed eyes, the tears still run
as he fades into the setting sun

If you want to hear the song:

Enjoy! I find that painting and music can inspire and really help to get into the zone.

Sue Martin
Keith and all, my takeaway from all this dialog is "experiment and see what happens." I always listen to SOMETHING. Often it's NPR or an audio book, but I also enjoy listening to jazz. It might be because my work tends to be improvisations on themes. And if I'm stuck creatively - without an inspiration or a solution to a problem - I change what I'm listening to and it usually makes a positive difference.

Charlotte Herczfeld
Keith, lovely article! Seems you're discovering and utilizing the Mozart effect!

I used to listen to music, usually classic, and found Mozart to be great, but the majesty of Beethoven too distracting. Then I needed a more upbeat feel in bleak midwinter, and turned on a radiostation sending music from 50s to 70s. Hollering along, I suddenly found myself making strokes to the beat! Just as you say, a peaceful painting full of jagged strokes... no, doesn't work. Now, I don't listen to anything, as I don't hear words from a sound-book when in the flow.

But, I'm rethinking. Choosing the music after the mood I want to convey, good idea!

Main thing, try something new now and then, that is what I take from your article.

Kate Dardine
I always listen to music when I paint in the studio. Like Keith, it helps me get in the zone. I too have noticed a correlation between what I am listening to and how I apply the paint. I find classical music to be the best to paint to - as well as Loreena McKennitt's music. Lately I've been listening to Native American flute music as I paint my totem animal series.

Rhoda J Powers
This is absolutely true for me as well. Keith, I am primarily a glass artist. Classical is the music of choice for me as well. I can't create when I am trying to listen to a CD to learn Spanish or high tempo pieces.....smooth and methodical like my glass. My environment has a profound influence of what I am creating. And Keith, for the record, the sounds of nature is music.
Happy creating everyone!

JT Harding
Thanks Keith,
I knew this post would resonate with a lot of us artists. Music is so much a part of my rituals to achieve that "zone" you discussed and helps me from getting distracted. Usually, I listen to a favorite radio station. Although sometimes I just let a mix of CDs play. I'll definitely try the classical music you mentioned. I can see how that would help to elicit a creative flow!

Betsy LaMere
Music is my lifeblood when working on my art. And like yourself, a passion not unlike my art. I have many genres of music that I love, though my taste tends to run a bit on the heavier side. Especially when drawing, where I sit for hours on end making lines and dots - something which for many seems like insanity - it is my music that fuels my creative zone.

Taking that a step further - I am often privy to listening as my son writes new material for his band, in which he plays bass. At different points, the band has practiced here, using my gallery as their practice space. As a fan of their music, it is quite something to have them playing in the next room! Though they no longer practice here, there are times when they get together and work at home. John and Myka (keyboardist) are downstairs as I write this, working.

Yes, music definately plays a huge role in my artistic process :)

Carol Bailey
I was very interested to read this article, because like Keith, I also love music of all kinds almost as much as I love my art, and I didn't realize their were so many like me out there. I wonder if their is some kind of link between loving music, art, and creativity. Music really helps me get in the zone of creating, and I find Loreena McKinnett works best for me (celtic ballads with a new age twist).

Gina Buzby
Michael Buble' or Pavarotti or good ol' SC Beach Music! = great fun and creativity!

Michelle Basic Hendry
Last spring I was painting a 120 year old pioneer church that was slated to be torn down. Of course I selected classical music for this one, but two pieces got played over and over during the process of this painting that between interpreting my feeling of loss over a beautiful old building and the sadness of the music, I was emotionally drained when I was finished. I couldn't paint for a couple of weeks. But the painting was one of my best at the time.

The music I played was Allegri's Miserere and Mozart's Requiem.

I also love all types of music and am very selective on what I listen to while I paint. I have found that the most important thing is that the tempo of the music remains consistant through out the painting. So rather than narrowing my selection by genre I narrow by tempo and select several favorites from many genre that keep a consistant vibrational level.
I also teach this factor during my painting workshops by having my students practice on small pieces while I change the music.
LOVE, LOVE the music.

Tom Weinkle
Great column Keith!

Sure I have had the same experiences. I love Classical, as well as many other types of music.

I have painted with electronica, and I danced, I painted. The wilder the music, the wilder the painting. Sometimes to the detriment of the art.

I now try to consciously pick music that simply insulates me from the outside world while I am painting, which allows me to concentrate.

Jo Castillo
This is great. I listen to music of all kinds as well. I usually put the selection to random on my iTunes and listen to it all! Although we lived in Bolivia and when I paint a painting from there I listen to Bolivian music.

I do remember reading some time back that "they" (I don't remember who did the study.) found that students doing homework remembered much better when listening to classical music. Something to do with order. Also for pregnant moms to play classical music for the fetus helped them after they were born. Hmmmm.

Charlotte Herczfeld
Reply to Jo Castillo:

One of "them" is Don Campbell, with his book "The Mozart Effect".

Plants grow better, cows milk more, and smash-and-grabbers stay out of parking houses when classical music is played, too, in addition to what you mentioned.

Sharon Weaver
I also listen to classical music and find it to be the most stimulating to my creativity. I just figured it was my personal preference but maybe there is something to it.

Sharon B. Parker
I agree, Keith; I love all kinds of music and don't create without something on. I also teach art to children and adults and always have classical or Celtic, or other melodic music on. I also like techno music like BT's, world music too, and anything with a good beat! We are fortunate here in Tidewater Virginia to have two wonderful classical stations, and on our NPR station, great cutting edge, "Out of the Box"(newest releases), and jazz programming.

Poppy Balser
I too love music though have the habit of listening to the CBC (I am a Canadian) current affairs show in the morning when I am in the studio. A lot of the time the voices wash over me as I am focusing on my work. Now I wonder what will happen if I switch to music. This is something to experiment with. Thanks for this!

Carole Rodrigue
I smiled as I read this article because I was seeing myself signing all the time. I grew up in a musical family and music has always been a great part of my life. I love all sorts of music as also, from country to heavy metal, techno to classical, French, new, old, whatever, if it's good, I love it.

While I paint, I've also always listened to music. I have my iPod so I don't disturb my older boyfriend. He built my studio last summer and insulated the walls. Apparently, my singing is quite hillarious and he got tired of hearing it for hours on end. Yes, I do sing for hours when I paint, when showering, when cooking, cleaning . . . Oh, I can come up with so many embarrassing situations with my singing! Just imagine a person singing when they hear the music, but nobody else does. But singing make the soul happy. When I paint I'm happy, and I love to paint the beautiful things in life. Beauty makes people happy. So, yes, music while creating art. Please!

Jean Corbett
Music is such a part of people's souls! I just completed a painting of our grandson who is a wonderful musician, his gift played out through his high-functionning autism. It is nice to watch him become immersed in music, much like that way I become immersed in my art!

Char Davis
Absolutely, music affects what happens inside our brains! This is so true for creativity, mood, sleep, healing, and the list could go on and on! Certain music can really get me into a creative mind frame. Lately, I have been listening to "Creative Mind System" by Jeffrey Thompson, who has done extensive research on how our brain waves react to music. This particular music has been created specifically to "get the artist in the zone"'s a fabulous feeling! Thanks Keith, great subject matter today!

Joanne Bernardini
I too realized how important music is to my work. So much so that I decided to add Irish themed music as a background to my website at thinking that lovers of Irish photos would have a deeper experience if they heard soft Irish music playing in the background. I was so proud of my accomplishment until my web designer son exclaimed "Mom! That is such a rooky mistake! Who is your market? They are most likely people who are sneaking a quick look at your beautiful photos while at work! The easiest way to get them caught is if the boss hears Irish music (or ANY music) coming from their cubicle." Moral of the story. Music while YOU work not while they are! They can't buy your work if they are out of a job!

Julia Forman
Hi Keith,
I loved your comments about the effects of music on your art. I experience the same things.People have commented on paintings and asked 'What inspired you?" The answer has frequently been..."Oh Beethoven painted this one!"
I can honestly say that when I have been "blocked...can't get going"...I put on a medley of classics and the brush listens and creates. In the past I have given demos at art groups and everytime my music is there with me. The folk love it as they too become absorbed in the painting process and not too much explaination is called for.
When I really want to paint emotive pieces....the music of Hans Zimmer and Klaus Bedelt will blow your socks off!
Sing and let the brush dance across the canvas!
Thanks for great articles

Indy Behrendt
Music most definatly affects any work...I'm a portrait photographer and notice how mood can affects the energy of a shoot.
I paint some of my own canvas backgrounds and when I do I like to do so after hours, lock the door to the studio and "crank the music". Sometimes rock or classical, but on one occasion I was painting a 12 foot long canvas on the floor and as I started at the top my brush strokes reflect the energy of the banjo and dobro of the blugrass music CD. The music slowed to a sad ballad in the middle and if you look at the brush strokes even now you can tell...
As an aside; try listening to the Beach Boys when you have a tough task such as house work or dishes, they will make it bearable!

Keith Bond
Thanks everyone for your comments.

A few of you mentioned talk radio or books on cd or npr. I have done that on occasion. But I usually get to caught up in the stories that I quit painting.

Donald, I also like Pink Floyd from time to time. Have you heard Marillion? If you like PF, you might like them. They are some of the most gifted musicians. Check them out:

I like Nitty Gritty Dirt Band when cleaning the house. Don't know why - I don't think it has anything to do with their name, though.

Diane Spears
Good article. I've found that any music with lyrics interferes with my artwork. I've also narrowed down to classical and Christian instrumental.

Marsha Hamby Savage
I couldn't paint in the studio if I didn't have my music on. Plein air I listen to the sounds of nature!

My music of choice is rock music -- or country rock -- and right now it is Lady Antebellum mostly, or Rascal Flats and their song "Bob That Head". And, I dance and sing while painting. It gets me going. I do listen to classical sometimes, but it is rare. And, don't dare ask me to sing in front of anyone -- I can certainly understand the person that said they had a room that was heavily insulated. I am sure my voice is very disturbing and off key! But, I love to sing along in my studio or my car where no one can listen but me!

I will have to try classical more often when I am painting a serene scene! Wonderful observations!

Helen Horn Musser
You clean house and give your child baths; your wife has got a jewel

Michael Gillespie
Lots of good thoughts. I listen to mostly classical music while painting; I have music and art degrees, and, like anything else, you get more enjoyment from something if you know more about it. I think more people would listen to classical music if they knew what selections to listen to or knew a little more background on each piece.

Maybe someone could write a guide that relates certain styles of music with certain styles of visual art. For example, French Impressionist composers like Debussy and Ravel would be appropriate to listen to while painting in an Impressionistic style.

Music being the most abstract of the arts, I have painted a couple of abstract interpretations of musical compositions as an experiment, even though I am not an abstract painter. One was accepted into a juried show! (the music: Mars, the Bringer of War - from The Planets, and Adagio for Strings)

Last thought: I think our minds go back and forth between actively listening and thinking about what we are creating; we can't concentrate on two things at once.

Helen Horn Musser
Good thoughts Michael; a review of classical music to paint by. Would love that point of view.

Daggi Wallace
Keith, I have the same ritual as you of selecting music as part of my routine before going into the studio. I also like all kinds of music and it changes with my moods. However, like you, I've noticed that some music allows me to get into the zone much quicker. Opera, for one, and any album that I have listened to for years ( even decades in some cases, like Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, Pink Floyd) and to which I know all the lyrics. I figured out the reason: I know all the words and sing to the songs at the top of my lungs! Even to the operatic arias! Now, I'm not a singer by any means, as my kids will tell you ( poor things!), but when I'm alone in my studio, I let'er rip! Since I don't even have to think about the lyrics ( sometimes I'll hit replay on a song and will listen to it 10 times in a row, driving my daughters to insanity, singing along with it every time, especially when working on a difficult area of a painting)I go on automatic pilot. Coupled with the physical vibrations the sounds produce through my voice and the very loud volume on the stereo, I feel as if I'm in a trance, able to completely work intuitively. If I choose music that I don't know that well, it's more difficult to enter that zone.
On the other hand, when first brainstorming about a new piece, I need total quiet. At other times ( when I'm preparing painting surfaces or straightening up the studio) I enjoy listening to talk radio especially when it is about subjects like the arts, creativity or spirituality, but not during times I need to tune out and enter that wonderful zone we're all addicted to as artist.
Thanks for sharing this with us. Now I can tell my kids that their mom is not such an oddball after all!

Tom Weinkle
Helen is right about Keith being a jewel. I have no children, but I do have my dog gracie, whom I bath and sing to every week.

Helen Horn Musser
Good for you Tom; the dog is still man's best friend. Happy Painting

Helen Horn Musser
My dog, Rascal, was also my best friend; I lost him last year. He was 16 years old and getting unable to get up and move around. We, regrettably had to put him to sleep. He was always there when I painted as long as he could go upstairs into the studio. I miss him very much. Had him cremated and have his ashes near me when on the computer. Life is not the same without him.

Tom Weinkle
I am sorry to hear about Rascal. We are a animal family for sure, like you. Gracie is pretty old now, but brought us much joy. Until recently, she would always hang out with me while i painted. I think she has become bored with my art. Everyone's a critic!

Helen Horn Musser
I understand; we are out there painting our hearts out and we are still unappreciated. Keep up the good work and your time will come

Esther J. Williams
Music runs through my family blood and I MUST play it while painting indoors. My preference is classical music. Although I belt out rock `n roll songs while driving the Jeep around town. There is a European station that streams several choice on the interent. I choose Radio Swiss Classic on this website, it is my favorite. Nothing like classical music, piano, violins, harps, flutes, etc... to place the brushstrokes with. Makes me feel like a conductor upon my canvas placing music into the painting.
Here`s the website if you want to stream classical music from your computer:

Esther J. Williams
I almost forgot, I can play music on my laptop with the DVD/CD player. I bought all of Andrea Bocelli`s musical CD/DVD`s and play them when I am in a certain mood, his voice soothes and enlightens me. I have a stack of classical and rock `n roll artists to pick from if I go on a trip and bring my laptop. When I am painting for hours those multi-disk changers work wonders. My lazy way is to click on the above mentioned European classical radio station online. They have music from all over Europe, the music from France, Russia, Germany and Switzerland is good too.

Barbara Gerard-Mitchell
Hi Keith, Just two nights ago, I went to Petaluma, Ca. to see a band I'd been listening to for over twenty years. On the drive there, I thought back about the impact this music has had on my life. I thought about how I had raised my family, maintained a small ranch, painted, laughed and cried all to the sounds of this band. They were always there when I needed the emotional fix. I drove many a Montana mile, searching for the best locations to paint, or just being in my studio, stereo cranked up, keeping up with the beat. I love this band. I now live in California and jumped at the chance to see them perform live. The concert was more than I ever dreamed. The music pulsed through my body, the whole audience swayed to the beat. It was sweet as molasses, it was overwhelming at times and I had tears. I couldn't believe I had finally arrived to this. After the concert I went and talked to the band as they signed posters near the stage. They listened kindly as I told them about the impact their music had on my soul. They looked at me with softened eyes, nodding as they listened. They understood, because they probably heard it a hundred times. How can two men who live across the ocean have such a powerful connection? We did connect, we did understand and I will continue my life's journey with a sense of satisfaction, a sense of reaching full circle. I will paint to the lovely sounds of Acoustic Alchemy. They are two guitar players who complement each other with a full band behind them. One of the founding members passed away and was replaced with another who is just as great. They come from London but play in the states when they can. Today I am painting again listening to Pat Metheny, another guitarist who has powerful impact on my life. Music is an important part of our lives whether it be painting or singing loudly in the shower!

Helen Horn Musser
Barbara, How wonderful it must have been to see your people and music live. Your story is very moving.

Teddy Jackson
Music is an important part of my time in the studio. I most always play classical music.
There is an unlifting feeling - a freedom to express myself and to become one with my creation.

Margie Guyot
I was a music major, so yes, I also listen to music when I paint. Diana Krall is a big favorite, as well as classical. And I have my saxophone in the studio and usually end up the day playing it. My 2 studio kitties seem to enjoy music as well.

Like most everybody else, I only listen to nature when I'm doing plein-air. It's a good idea to "keep your wits about you" when outside, to be alert to approaching bears, etc.

Painting to music is for me a fortuitous combination. Maybe it started because my son is a professional musician of the rock genre. In any event, classical music -while wonderful in some ways- doesn't get me moving more freely in the way that rock or jazz does...until I am finishing the painting and need to slow down and take care of all the ending details.

Keith Bond
All types of music has its place as a companion to music. Rock works great for some art but not all art. Classical works great with some art, but not all art. Find what works for you.

By the way, some classical can be very lively - it's not all soothing and quiet.


Keith Bond
OOPS! I meant music as a companion to art.

Helen Horn Musser
Yes Keith, Mozart, very lively. Composed at a young and lively age

Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
I am a jewelry artist and metalsmith, and my pieces aren't representational, so I haven't noticed that my music conflicts with the mood of whatever I'm working on. I have noticed that if I'm doing a task I hate (such as filing!) that isn't a part of the forming of the piece, something upbeat and fun helps to take my mind off of the mundaneness of it. I do like to sing along to my music, and this also helps keep it fun in the studio.

I do try to pick music each day that fits the mood I'm in. I tend to put the cd on repeat so that I don't have to stop with dirty hands to change it. There are now albums that I totally associate with working in the studio when I hear songs off of them in other settings. It kind of motivates me to get back in there and make something.


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