I’ve had a passion for music since I was a young child. The first CD I ever personally owned was Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, at the age of 9. I’ve been obsessed with Jazz, the trumpet, and music in general for as long as I can remember. Recently, I have been on a quest to search out artists who combine elements from both the visual and auditory arts. Unfortunately, there aren’t many book artists who also believe the above art forms are not mutually exclusive. Despite this, there are still several stunning pieces that perfectly display a marriage of the two arts.
One fantastic example is the playful History of the Accordion piece by book artist duo Donna and Peter Thomas, also known as the Wandering Book Artists. Instead of just making books that resemble accordions, they created the book using an actual accordion “as the housing of a series of images” about accordion players and handwritten text on each of the panels. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek take on the book structure that comes off as witty, charming, and very whimsical. The book was made by “slitting the bellows” of a vintage Hohner child’s accordion to create the book structure. The images and text panels were then placed into the bellows to create the pages. The content of the book is a history of the accordion instrument and the history of the accordion book structure. The images are from Peter’s collection of accordion players that have been digitally printed on Peter’s handmade paper and colored by Donna. The duo also claims that, “the accordion can still be played, but only sort of.”
Another History of the Accordion Book. (2017) by Peter Thomas
And the pair doesn’t stop at accordions; they also have a series of ukulele books enclosed in actual ukuleles! The books are made by sawing a ukulele in half and then re-connecting the two halves with a hinge and lock. Both halves of the ukulele have chambers made in them to house the book content. The text for Ukulele Series Book number 23 “was originally made for a miniature book in 1999,” but has been enlarged and reprinted for this edition. It also included a new title page and colophon, printed on Peter’s handmade paper, sewn to the text.
A Brief History of the Ukulele. Ukulele Series Book number 23. (2003) Peter and Donna Thomas
Possibly one of the greatest examples of the intersection between the visual and auditory arts is Ursula Block’s Broken Music: Artists’ Recordworks. It is an extensive exhibition catalogue published accompanied with a show that was held in 1992 at the Daagalerie in Berlin. It is the “most complete discography of recordings by visual artists and experimental audioworks available.” Broken Music: Artists’ Recordworks lists works of visual artists created with and for the medium of the record: records, record-covers, record-objects, record-installations. As one of the leading authorities on the subject, Block mentions in the introduction that, “in contrast to the composer or musician who perceives the record first and foremost as a vehicle translating his musical ideas, the visual artist is especially interested in the optical as well as acoustical presence.” Broken Music: Artists’ Recordworks is a stunning visual homage to the recording arts that speaks volumes about her passion for the subject.
While these works are remarkable, I had a hard time searching for these types of creations, and I felt is was a shame that there were not many pieces on the subject. However, it has definitely heightened my vigor to keep exploring the intersection and experiment for myself!