Music and Marbling: developing a cross-artform approach and sharing it with patients

Hello! We’re artist Chloe Cooper and composer Jackie Walduck.

This year we’ve developed a cross-artform approach inspired by our artistic practices and many years of working together on projects with young artist-musicians with autism through a partnership with Turtle Key Arts, National Portrait Gallery and Wigmore Hall.

The closing of galleries and music venues during the first lockdown gave us the opportunity to focus on the artistic processes we had developed together and take them to the next level. We used Zoom to play together with our paints and instruments respectively. Over time we realised that we were able to improvise together by listening to the sounds and watching the visuals we were each creating in our individual homes. We developed techniques that could work for both music and marbling including layering up, distorting and disintegrating. We found that we could mirror and influence the colours, shapes, sounds and notes we produced.

As galleries and music venues remained closed we created our own engagement project and looked to external funders to help make it a reality. We applied to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s Arts Grants Scheme to work with students from Chelsea Community Hospital School to create a series of marbled prints and musical compositions. We were awarded the funding, which enabled us to take our dialogical music and marbling project to students currently experiencing mental ill health at Lavender Walk Adolescent Mental Health Unit.

Using Turkish marbling methods, we worked with the students individually and in pairs for those keen on collaboration. We created prints, which inspired mesmeric musical compositions to reflect the drops, swirls, and disintegrations of the paint. For the sound compositions, we layered up voices with instruments, distorted paint floating on thickened water and disintegrated patterns and loops. During the process we discussed the volume of different colours, the shape of different sounds, and how we can create a shared vocabulary across both art and music.

We noticed that as dots of paint and sound accumulated, the drops became sounds made on an instrument and each sound informed the next taps on the paintbrush. As the colours spread, the sounds grew. Participants said their best moments were “combining artworks as a way to inspire music” and that they learned “that you can create separate pieces in the same piece, completely different instruments can fit together … an echo can be shown through a single drop”.

You can see the prints in the images here and listen to the musical compositions via the QR codes. Can you hear the paint fall? Do you see loops, rhythms and melodies? The prints look a bit like the ink blots used in psychological tests invented by Hermann Rorschach, but here, the pairing with hypnotic music is intended to facilitate a state of calming, mildly dissociative trance.

Through working with the students we learnt how to leave space in the marbled prints, to appreciate more of the abstract qualities of what we could produce. Inspired by our time working with the students, we made our own audio-visual pieces. These pieces integrate QR codes for the musical composition directly into the marbling. The prints also incorporate words and textual aspects relating to our personal experiences. We created these during the second lockdown, again in a collaboration over Zoom to maintain our real-time approach for creating marbling and music in dialogue with each other.

During Creativity and Wellbeing Week 2021, CW+ are exhibiting the artwork and QR codes to the music compositions produced by students and ourselves in the waiting area on the Ground Floor at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The exhibition is on display until August 2021 and we hope to encourage patients, visitors and staff to contemplate diagnostic experiences, our control over our bodies, and the role of creativity in wellbeing.

Care is vital to our creative work with people. We found that participants responded positively to a gentle approach (modelled by the staff at Lavender Walk), in which they were offered (not required) to join in the activities. This created a low-stress atmosphere, from which we were able to build our music and marbling productively, noticing but not being derailed by anxieties when they surfaced.

We’d love to hear what you think of the project. Email us at chloe_jam@yahoo.co.uk and jackiewalduck@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!
Chloe and Jackie

chloecooper.co.uk / @chloecooooooper
jackiewalduck.org / @jackiewalduck

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