Take a (Visual) Music Break with Mansi Shah
Before Mansi Shah jumped head-first into her fresh-and-witty line, she was a graphic designer who got into visual music at California Institute of the Arts. So what exactly is that? In Mansi’s words, it’s “the craft of depicting things you hear into things you can see and feel.” Below, she gives us the scoop on what that’s all about and how the eccentric practice continues to subtly influence her work in a seriously practical way.
VISUAL MUSICIAN TO KNOW: WALTER RUTTMAN
A German film director who was one of the pioneers of experimental film in the twenties.
“Visual music refers to methods of visually representing sounds through film, painting, or drawing. Sometimes it’ll be really literal—you’ll see shapes pop up in direct correlation with the beat or the sound or the rhythm. Sometimes it’s a little more abstract, and it’s more of a mood or feeling.”
VISUAL MUSICIAN TO KNOW: JULES ENGLES
A professor who also had a hand in creating the Disney classic Fantasia.
“Jules Engles, whose work you can see here, was one of the founding directors of the experimental animation program at CalArts, where I studied. I was surrounded by all these great films and filmmakers. And sounds! The music students often practiced outside of our design studios—we would hear it all day. It never got obnoxious.”
VISUAL MUSICIAN TO KNOW: MARY ELLEN BUTE
An animator who was the subject of a MoMA retrospective in 1983, right before her death.
“There’s a really fascinating connection between visual music and synesthesia—how sound is processed in your brain, how it affects different people in different ways, and how they experience those things. One variation is called chromesthesia. It’s a neurological condition where people visualize sound through different environmental triggers. Like when they hear a dog barking, they’ll see the color red.”