Speak Music Speak Design

spring 2019

week 6 | The Dictionary 3


Affected by your presence, a rope creates physical waves floating in front of you, hitting your perception as sound & light at once.E


Be ready to present a more advanced prototype in class. This prototype should introduce the first term. After feedback from the class you will add another two terms

week 5 | The Dictionary 2


The Dictionary

These are the questions to guide your discussion and help develop your proposals.

Social Justice
How could this project connect to existing communities?
How could this project create communities?
How could the audience participate/engage?
Who has access to this project and how could access be expanded?
What are strategies to document this project?

Which technologies could enhance this project?
How could automation (AI/Machine Learning) support this project?
Will the chosen technology still be relevant in 10 years?
Do the choices of media and technology speak to the audience?

Visual Design & Music
Does the project have a strong visual/acoustic identity?
Ideas to strengthen this?
Are visual design and music represented with same weight?
What could be done to push this?
Does the project talk to an audience within both discipline and beyond those? How could this be supported
Can you think of references within the history of music or design?

Critical/Creative Thinking
How does the project integrate untested and potentially risky directions? Could there be other approaches?
How does the project create new knowledge or knowledge that crosses boundaries? Are there alternative ways?
What does the audience learn about the intersection of design and music?
Is the project based on research? Do you have recommendations for additional resources?


Each group will present a very basic prototype of your dictionary using only one term you agree upon

Answer all questions in the left column. They help to write a project statement.

week 5 | The Dictionary 1


The Dictionary

We will investigate the concept of a “dictionary” in the broadest sense. It can make use of any kind of media, including interactive, performative, printed, projected, spatial explorations. A few examples:

The Voynich Manuscript
BBC Article | High-res Scans, Yale University Library
Codex Seraphinianus
Article in WIRED magazine
All pages of the codex on facebook

THE GUARDIAN – The seven digital deadly sins

Oskar Schlemmer – The Triad Ballet
Article on OpenCulture
Video Documentation on Youtube (Remake 1970)

Dan and Lia Perjovschi
Economy and Collection of Care in Transition
Fischli and Weiss
History of the World

Oskar Schlemmer: Das Triadische Ballett
“The idea of presenting human beings on stage as adaptations of machines (as in Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet) soon encountered the more radical concept of a quasi-mechanical stage on which there are only forms, colours, light, sound and movement (as in Kurt Schmidt’s Mechanical Ballet from 1923).”
Documentation on Penccil


1 — The objective of the dictionary project is to compare the taxonomy of music and design. In some cases we use the same terminology for similar things in other cases vocabulary might point into opposing directions. The dictionary should be a framework that can be filled with a variety of terms.

2 — In a first step, your group creates a way to experience one term in both disciplines. You should design a prototype and mockups to present this idea to the class.

3 — Once your group decided about the final way to deliver this experience you should think about 2 other terms that could be experienced in the same way.

4 — Examples: If you design a game for your first term, you could think about two more levels of the game for two additional words. If you design a magazine for the first term, you could think about two more issues exploring two additional terms.

5 — The dictionary can be interactive, performative, printed, projected, spatial, …

Next week each student has to pitch an idea for a dictionary. You can use a single visual or sound but are limited to two minutes. The idea of the pitch is to find collaborators.



Sound Logos: A Sound Trademark (or audio logo or sonic logo or sometimes called a “mnemonic”) is a short distinctive melody or other sequence of sound, mostly positioned at the beginning or ending of a commercial. It can be seen as the acoustic equivalent of a visual logo. Multiple examples of Sound Logos can be found HERE. And THIS is a great video by Wired Magazine exploring the psychology of some sound logos known buy us all.

Abstraction in Music: How does artistic Abstractionapply to music? Imagine how many different ways you could interpret the melody of “Happy Birthday”. Each could be its own little variation, ultimately a type of abstraction.

Connecting The Dots: Work on discovering common concepts in apparently disconnected music pieces. Here’s a wild example: What do Mozart’s famous Piano Sonata No11 K331 (3rd Movement) and Hermeto Pascoal’s De sabado para Dominguinhos have in common?

Exploring a Musical Form: (and its abstractions in a contemporary context): The classical Rondo. And two “jazz abstracions” of it:
Dave Brubeck – Blue Rondo A La Turk and Alexis Cuadrado “Vals En Las Ramas” with lyrics from a Poem of Federico Garcia Lorca (Don’t miss Miguel Zenon’s amazing sax solo at the end!)

Music Cryptogram: Explore what it is and if you can apply it to your assignment.


Look at Robert Indiana’s EAT DIE 

1 – Make a plan on what musical elements can connect with the piece. Pay special attention to form, and think of what the narrative and flow of your piece are going to be.

2 – Once your piece is finished, write a paragraph of approximately 75 words in which you describe your piece and its connection to the Indiana design.

3 – Add an original “Sound Logo” to end your piece. Any musical/sound idea that you think will be the best possible sonic branding for the EAT DIE design.

4 – Submission: One minute long (approx.) music piece in digital audio format. Upload to SoundCloud. Create a text file with your name on it. Include the Soundcloud link on top followed by your descriptive paragraph. Upload it to the folder “04 Translate Design” in our google docs page before class.

The “reading” for this week: Listen to at least one of the three episodes of WNYC’S “New Sounds with John Schaeffer — Music Inspired by Painters” Part 1Part 2 and Part 3




Oskar Fischinger: Kreise (excerpt) Realized with  GasparColorStudie Nr 8. More about Fischinger on CenterForVisualMusic

Viking Eggeling: Symphonie Diagonale. Paper cut-outs and tin foil figures were photographed a frame at a time. More information about Eggeling on MonoskopMore about Eggeling and his work

Ellen Lupton explains the grid:

Grid: An introduction and How-to by Andrew Maher (Traditional Graphic Design Grids)


Listen to this: Kraftwerk. Das Model.

1 – Design a grid inspired by the atmosphere/feeling of the music (black lines on white background) The grid does not have to be a “traditional graphic design grid” but can consist of organic lines, circles, shapes and be more of a pattern than an actual grid. (like this or this)

2 – Fill the grid with black color to represent rhythm and/or elements of the music.

3 – Submission: One digital image
Size: 1280×1024 pixel
Color b/w, RGB
Resolution: 72 dpi
Format: PNG, JPG
upload it to our google folder before class

There is a sample page in the shared google folder “00 Readings” called “Explore Rhythm”.

The reading for this week is an article published in eye magazine:
Ghosts of designbots yet to come
Automated graphic design and the rise of robot creatives – Francisco Laranjo files a critical report from the perspective of Christmas 2025. Post five sounds/visuals as a response

week 2 | TRANSLATE Design


Designing a Music Font – By Daniel Spreadbury – New standard SMUFL created by the Dórico – Steinberg music notation software team.

Lynda.com Music Software Playlist – Video tutorials of most common music applications.  Here’s the link to create a free account at Lynda.com with your New School email.

DesignModo.com – Connections between Music and Design.

Wikipedia entry on Musical Form

The Beatles – a musical appreciation and analysis – by composer, Howard Goodall

Luciano Berio – Circles. The form of the composition itself expresses a circle.

Graphic scores of works by Iannis Xenakis and György Ligeti

Musical Systems by Anthony Braxton

Nathalie Miebach uses the data of storms to create visuals and music. Her homepage | article on brainpickings | Her TED talk

Eleanor Rigby analysis

Charles Mingus’ Jazz Workshop

In Mingus’s Jazz Workshop the exploration never stopped. Rehearsals could go for days. Performances, if not up to his standards, might be interrupted for the leader to correct a musician, re-chart the course of the music, or admonish the audience for talking.


What is a Music Workshop?

A Music Workshop is a regular meeting of musicians with a twofold purpose: 1) Create a body of work that allows musicians to come together in order to share ideas and to learn from one another. 2) Develop an artistic integrity as composers and performers. On Tuesday, September 13 we’ll start our class with a Music Workshop meeting in which all of you will come with an original Music/Sound composition completed.

1 – Choose your favorite 7×7 piece from the works from last week’s assignment. Not your work, but somebody else’s.

2 – From the design “Extract” a shape that can be transformed into a musical form. Circular, Columns, etc… Write down a form that will determine the shape and flow of the piece.

3 – Inspired in the design, write down a list of musical or sound elements that could form a composition: Melody, Rhythm, Harmony, Form, Technique (sound collage, pop song, classical mood… anything goes!) Write a short statement explaining your choices.

4 – With the Form described in 2- and the elements described in 3- compose a musical/sound piece that is 1 minute long max. The media can be digital or a live performance.

5 – If your piece is in a digital format, please upload it to SoundCloud, tag it with #speakmusicspeakdesign and send the link to both instructors.

Any form of production will be valid. If you want to edit sound you can use any software (Adobe audition is free to all of you) or Pro-Tools, Logic, Garage Band. If you are inclined to live performance, go for it! The question here is to design a musical or sound “experience” than can be as valid as a conventional musical piece (which, of course, is also acceptable!)

Keep adding to your visual and auditive diary — the reading that will inspire your posts for this week is in out shared google drive “week 2” Read the introduction, select a place in the city and perform exercise 1 & 2



Philharmoniker Hamburg – Sound logo. The skyline of a city and its reflection is shaped into a sound wave. A designer, a composer and a sound engineer create this sound logo for the Philharmoniker Hamburg.

Ellen Lupton: Thinking with Type Definitions and terms of the discipline.

The History of Visual Communication (Material of a class at Sabanci University, Istanbul)

typo/graphic posters is a platform for inspiration and promotion of good design through the poster culture.

Current attempt of a definition & discussion of a discipline Multiple Signatures by Michael Rock

Meaningless Sounds by Lea Letzel. Part of the FORTY FIVE SYMBOLS exhibition 2014

Zimoun Swiss artist who lives and works in Bern, Switzerland. A self-taught artist, he is most known for his sound sculptures, sound architectures and installation art that combine raw, industrial materials such as cardboard boxes, plastic bags, or old furniture, with mechanical elements such as dc-motors, wires, microphones, speakers and ventilators


What is a Design Studio?

How do designers learn? What is the language & culture in our classes at Parsons? On Tuesday, January 29, we will start our class with a “typical design studio” which is a mix of critiques given by instructor and peers. Please come to class with the following prepared:

  1. Choose one of your favorite songs and select a single line or a full strophe.
  2. Choose 4 out of the 8 typographic systems to organize the words using the software of your choice, or pen and paper or whatever means you consider appropriate.
  3. Your final artwork needs to be cropped to: 7×7 inches.
  4. Make sure to use the same amount of text for all your designs
  5. You are free to add color and photos, select fonts and materials.
  6. Again, don’t forget to crop your work.
  7. Bring a physical print/copy to class and upload a PDF/picture to the shared google drive before class.
  8. It does not matter (at all!!) how you produce this. You might use professional design software (ADOBE), any other software, or use pen and paper only. (Use white paper, newspaper, print with potatoes – use what you feel comfortable using)

Your visual and auditive diary

  1. Create accounts on Instagram and SoundCloud
  2. Post at least five things per week: pictures or sounds as response to a weekly reading.
  3. Publish five comments per week connecting to the pictures or sounds of your peers.
  4. Email both accounts to Pascal & Alexis.
  5. We have two readings this week about the grid in communication design that you will find in our shared google drive.