That Noble Art
November 7, 2007 7:47 PM   Subscribe

I need an image that bespeaks "music" in the broadest sense, without privileging any particular evaluative view of music. Help me brainstorm because . . .

For example, an image of musical notes privileges the literate written traditions of western art music visually. An image of a dijeridu privileges a powerful image of "primitive" music (regardless of decades of criticism of primitivism). I'm looking to design a logo for a website that needs to be broadly inclusive of many musics and ways of thinking about them. Something incorporating a global map or globe, sound waves, the singing voice in the most cross-cultural and abstract sense. Imagine, if you will, the masthead for "The Music Site." That's all you know about it and it wants to be utterly opaque as to any specific musical commitments. It could lead to avant garde electronica or Hindustani classical music or punk rock, and that's the point. Fairly abstract images, combinations of graphic symbols and images, long and wide especially preferred to fill a masthead . . . Just a mind puzzle for the designers in the hive to toy with. To be clear, I am looking to verbalize a concept here, not to draw it. Just to make it challenging.
posted by spitbull to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
PS -- this is a nonprofit project, music educational in mission, and the idea is to communicate utter open mindedness about what might be "good music" or "interesting stuff about music."

I know, I know . . . winner gets a bong hit.
posted by spitbull at 7:53 PM on November 7, 2007

what about a hand fingering a chord on some vocal chords?

or something similar: making the voice into a physical instrument in some abstract way.
posted by Pants! at 8:02 PM on November 7, 2007

The best I can suggest is an ear.

But then you run into difficulties around colour, of course.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:04 PM on November 7, 2007

or flowers coming out of an ear, a la Terry Gilliam
posted by Pants! at 8:07 PM on November 7, 2007

From online dictionary:

Music (n):

1. an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.
2. the tones or sounds employed, occurring in single line (melody) or multiple lines (harmony), and sounded or to be sounded by one or more voices or instruments, or both.

So I'd say you'd want happy people (art/pleasing quality/emotions), perhaps with ears subtly featured or highlighted.

Maybe hands on drums, waving in air conducting, on strings. Maybe somehow incorporate the ways music can be made: striking, plucking, blowing, singing (mouth), perhaps even some symbol of electronic generation.

Could incorporate some kind of wave image, maybe made colorful and beautiful so that it's not too science exclusive. Optional: incorporate five parallel lines to connote Western written music.

Maybe some kind of "rhythmic" image with black and white bars or something; this may also connote literature or piano keys (for a western/traditional note).

OR you could opt for something very simple: a spiral sea shell (whelk?) as a logo. "Music" is impossible to capture, this would say, so here's something beautiful, from nature, that's both timeless and associated with that most ancient of sounds, the echo of the ocean.
posted by amtho at 8:19 PM on November 7, 2007

Wolfdog's metafilter link from a little while back has some terrific inspirational images.
posted by extrabox at 8:43 PM on November 7, 2007

A faun blowing on pan pipes.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:10 PM on November 7, 2007

That should have had this link.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:12 PM on November 7, 2007

How about centering it around hands that make music? Hands in motion tapping on the edge of a table or drum, hands clapping, snapping, and creating a joyful megaphone around an upturned singing mouth?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:36 PM on November 7, 2007

All sound consists of waves. I think a sine wave is pretty recognizable. (More complicated waves have the disadvantage, too, of looking like something off a cardiac monitor. Stick with the sine.)

Even better would be a depiction of the harmonic series — sine waves in a 1:2:3:4:5:6:7.... ratio. That's the vibrating pattern of a stretched string or a column of air, and it's the basis of just about any tuning system you can find anywhere in the world. I've seen prettier versions, but this oughta give you the idea, and it's the best I can seem to google up.

Drums, mouths and clapping hands are good. I'd add animal horns, bows and reeds to the list — it seems like every culture with access to them has instruments based on them.

A person with his hands in the air, his hips to the side and one foot off the ground is clearly dancing, even if you don't know what dance he's doing. A complicated pattern of footprints also implies dancing — use the print of a bare foot and not one in shoes if you don't want it to look specifically like a ballroom dance diagram.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:53 PM on November 7, 2007

Great thoughts all -- a few comments:

1) depicting people is sort of out unless they can be very generic figures
2) the seashell (as in "the corded shell") is a very intriguing idea, but so are the others

thanks -- if you've got more, keep them coming. bong hits for everyone.
posted by spitbull at 3:35 AM on November 8, 2007

And fauns with panpipes are too culture-specific, despite their ancient quality.

Have been playing with the idea of a mercator projection within a sine wave curve. thoughts?
posted by spitbull at 3:38 AM on November 8, 2007

I know nothing about graphic design but am intrigued by the abstraction task here.

The pan-pipes image is a broadly suggestive one - plus it carries notes of devilry (intertextually) which I like.

Let's say this: the original iPod ads are the purest evocation of 'music listening as universal experience' I've seen. Silhouettes so no racial markers, minimal cultural identification; no knowing what's on the iPods; the poses are ecstatic without screaming 'exotic primitive experience'; the backgrounds are variable. It's really a remarkable campaign. Something in that conceptual region, maybe?

Images of musical notes don't 'privilege' anything except the preservation of music through written records - and you needn't use contemporary markings, if you're feeling aggressively multi-culti. (Gregorian chant notation looks cool.)

What about a 'Pedestrian X-ing'-style sign with a stick figure doing something music-ish? Abstract figure, clear action, notes of travel and border-crossing, etc.

Or what about a series of dingbats - ear, hand, sound waves? Or just the OSX volume-setting bezel as the basis for yer logo?

I'll take a bourbon instead of a bong hit if it's all the same. :)
posted by waxbanks at 6:32 AM on November 8, 2007

posted by box at 3:30 PM on November 8, 2007

thanks all
posted by spitbull at 9:25 AM on November 9, 2007

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