Music’s Role in Contemporary Art

When imagining the types of things you might find when flipping through an art history textbook, you would think of paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, conceptual works, and the like. But as the lines between visual art and things like writing, dance, film, and music start to break down there becomes a need for more academic context. For example, it is difficult to look at something like Takashi Murakami’s “I Love It,” In My View and fully give someone an understanding of its meaning without the context of Kanye West’s music career and relationship with Murakami. While bits and pieces of varied art disciplines find their way into art history textbook entries, they are typically only there to aid in other works and are not given their own analysis and recognition.

There are many reasons something like music has been left behind in the annexes of art history. First and foremost, music is not visual, so you cannot open a book and experience the work like you can with a picture of a painting for example. Of course, one might display music similarly to how performance art is shown in texts with descriptions and background information. However, music has its own descriptive vocabulary that in all likelihood would be foreign to people who would normally be looking at an art history book. But these roadblocks have not stopped music critics from being able to speak at length about music without needing you to hear it first.

Just like with any other artists in an art history book, laying out the musician’s social context and influences are integral to understanding their message. To further understand these works in their context we will need to look at how the musician uses lyrical references as well as how they use sound to convey their message. Additionally, we must view the artist within the framework of the movement or genre that they create within or even the political climate in which they are creating.

Now we run into an issue that every history book runs into, what to include and what to exclude. There is a staggering amount of genres of music ranging from all manner of time periods and geographical locations that would be too large for the scope of this textbook to include. The text should also not stray too far as to explaining things that are better suited for a music text book, so this section will focus on where these two mediums overlap.

In this section, Musicians and Artists Overlap, we will look at the seeming increase in connections between the worlds of art and modern popular music. A large part of this section will look at how Takashi Murakami has spilled into the music scene, creating album covers, clothing collaborations, and artworks about musicians themselves and vice-versa. This section will also use the concepts of the high and low art to talk about why Murakami might be drawn to these musicians more than any other contemporary artist has been.


Opening Contemporary Art Copyright © by Sarah Parrish. All Rights Reserved.

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