Online gallery presentations, including photographic displays, occasionally incorporate music to enhance the experience and appreciation of the visual work. In presentations of music with art photography, the success of the audiovisual pairing is driven by establishing meaningful relationships between musical and visual content. But this is true in couplings of music with other visual art forms as well. Is there any potentially unique aspect to the pairing of audio with an art photograph?

The art photograph, like every photograph, starts with a camera and a physical subject. By definition then, even the most abstracted snapshot is firmly connected to a physical subject. Further, the artistic snapshot reflects the manipulation of physical matter, i.e., light, subject, and camera. In order to create a unique bond with the photograph, the music can be similarly constrained to elements and edits which are rooted in physicality.

There are more and less subtle applications of this notion. The most general implication for the music is a preference for acoustic sounds, or at least samples of acoustic sounds, over purely synthesized tones. Let the sound originate from a violin, or an oboe, or a sitar, as opposed to a dub-step sample box. Choices with respect to note and chord organization are another opportunity for physical grounding of the music. A systematic approach to note and chord choices, as opposed to a random one, will on some level incorporate the ancient relationships identified between musical modes and nature.

Translating a particular technique used to create the art photograph into musical terms can be a subtle and challenging affair. The photographic technique known as high dynamic range imaging, for example, which makes light more equally available across regions of a picture to facilitate greater representational detail, might suggest an orchestration that highlights individual instruments, rather than blending them. A snapshot which relies on the disorienting effect of the tilted camera and closeup-induced distortion, could suggest an audio edit which is likewise disorienting and distorting. Panning is a recording technique which can create some musical disorientation, especially if the composition emphasizes the stationary and disparate placement of instruments throughout the sound field. Sometimes the photographer intentionally blurs certain regions of the image. Overemphasizing particular frequencies in the audio spectrum, very much a physical manipulation of the sound, can achieve some intentional distortion to match the photos intentional blurriness.

In conclusion, while the glue holding music and photograph together is essentially that which holds music together with any visual image, there is a unique opportunity for unification. To match the snapshot’s inextricable connection to a physical subject, the music can self-impose a constraint of physicality. A preference for acoustic sounds and organized harmonic systems is implied. Musical parallels to specific photographic techniques typically involve editing techniques such as panning or audio frequency manipulations.

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