Music for Animal Art : Music can enhance the experience of visual art in several ways. The ambient track offers a deeper experience of place. A melody, or a choice of instrument, may establish for us historical or cultural contexts. A track that unfolds dramatically may suggest to the viewer a narrative for the artwork. Explicit sound effects serve to animate the visual image. Music for art contributes to art appreciation by creating deeper connections and richer associations with the visual creation.
What then, might distinguish music composed specifically for animal art? The animal figure is often presented in closeup. The artist may feature the creature’s head, or perhaps even the eye. When the entire animal is presented, the figure generally takes up most of the canvas. Even in the somewhat abstracted animal representation, there is a scientific aspect to animal art. There tends to be a focus on anatomical detail. Indeed, our fascination with this genre is largely about wondering at the unique forms that distinguish these beings from ourselves. Secondarily, the artist may present the subject engaged in a typical behavior such as running, foraging, sleeping, or howling at the moon. In many instances, because of the singular focus on the animal subject, we do not enjoy much environmental detail.
Music for animal art, then, can step in to expand on aspects seen and unseen in relation to the animal figure. Consider the portrait presentation of a tiger’s head. We appreciate the clear presentation of physical details. Sharp whiskers extend from the enormous muzzle like so many white wires. Intricate stripe patterns extend across a wide, sloping brow and around coolly focused but wild eyes. But what is this tiger all about? An active audio track may suggest the incredible speed of a slashing paw, or the sudden leap onto prey. An explicit sound effect, such as a roar, reminds us of the incredible power and ferocity of the beast.
Sometimes the music can heighten for us a mood or condition in the painting which is evident but subtle. Imagine the underwater world of fish. What is our fascination with this environment? Our musical track might offer a suggestion. A slow harp melody with heavy reverberation can create for us a heightened sensation of floating and weightlessness. Through the audio, we swim with the fish. Think about a somewhat humorous picture of a sleeping dog. What is it exactly that makes us chuckle at this image? A few slide trombones trudging heavily through a melody in canon paints with sound our visual representation of canine indolence on a hot summer day. Sometimes the music can provide us with environmental details. An ambient track, for example, may offer evidence of a lion’s position deep in the African jungle.
Most expansively, the musical track may offer an entire narrative not explicit at all in the visual representation. Consider an extreme closeup of a reptile’s eye. In the painting, a mosaic of green scales, the snake’s head, embeds a wild and malicious eye, orange and black. At least part of our fascination with this creepy closeup is what we know or imagine about snakes. The audio feeds the imagination with a presentation which unfolds dramatically. A slightly distorted slide whistle over a single plucked cello is the snake slithering silently through the grass, stopping and starting, as it makes its way gradually to the unsuspecting prey. And then sharp pizzicatos from violins are the subtle but deadly strikes, the poisonous bites of the viper.
Music for animal art responds to the strengths and limitations of the genre. Where the visual work must sacrifice background detail, or information about the animal’s behaviors, the music may fill in the gaps. Where action is presented in the animal painting, music can animate that action dramatically with explicit sound effects. Music can amplify for us the moods and conditions described in the art. The music laughs with us at the humorous aspect of a barnyard pig. The music shivers with us on the cold Siberian plain as a wolf howls at the moon.