Music Influences on Art

Artists are often musicians, and vice versa, but how much does music actually influence and inspire art? One organization based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, certainly thinks music is key to artistic inspiration. The Music Inspired Art Foundation promotes music inspired art at festivals and in gallery exhibitions. The group has as its mission to promote artists and photographers that are inspired by music and to stimulate crossings between musicians and artists.

What does it mean to be inspired by music? In some cases, it's more literal. You create a piece of art that has a musical theme of some sort. If you're looking for some examples of music inspired art, this post at offers 40 of the more literal examples. Check them out!

Others use music for inspiration more subtly. Playwright (yeah, we know, not a visual artist per se) Polly Stenham told The Guardian, "I always have music on while I'm writing. I'm a very aural person; as soon as I hear a lyric or phrase, I'm transported to a particular time or place." Similarly, playwright and director Anthony Neilson told The Guardian, "Listen to music to find a way into the story you're telling. Music is incredibly evocative: find the right piece that reflects the world you're writing about, and you're halfway there." While the examples of Stenham and Neilson apply to their writing, lots of visual artists have that same aural perception.

Brian Eno is best known as an early member of the band Roxy Music and for collaborating with such musical artists as David Bowie, Coldplay, Depeche Mode, Devo, Paul Simon, The Talking Heads, and U2. Having studied at the British art school Colchester Institute, Eno is also a visual artist. His light and multimedia installations tied directly to his music are a form of inextricably linked artistic works. In 2008 Eno collaborated with the Italian artist Mimmo Paladino on a show at Ara Pacis in Rome of Paladino's works with Eno's soundscapes.

In The Artist's Way Julia Cameron talks about the artist's need to be self-nourishing, a process she calls filling the well. One way to do that is with music. "Some sounds lull us," she says. "Others stimulate us. Ten minutes of listening to a great piece of music can be a very effective meditation. Five minutes of barefoot dancing to drum music can send our artist into its play-fray-day refreshed."

Sometimes music can simply be the catalyst to get your creative juices flowing. As an artist tries to establish a mood and tone for a particular work, music can help to shape that. Some artists really work to match up the mood of the music with the mood of their work. Others simply listen to music—any kind of music—as a regular source of background noise hoping that a wee bit of music's creativity will seep into their work almost by osmosis. As always with creative endeavors. It's always fun to experiment to see how music can influence your art.