The Image of Music: Its Expression in Art


Asoc. Prof. Skaidrite Erliha, Dr. Paed.

Department of Art, Daugavpils University,

Daugavpils, Latvia







Nowadays, in the epoch of manifold developments there exists a tendency that at each stage of age the perception of an artistic image, emotional understanding, imagination, percepts and associations are in a state of change. Considering the uniqueness of each person in the course of discovering of images, it is possible to adequately see, perceive and comprehend the world around us and the phenomena occurring. This is real art.

The image in its essence is a unique, original phenomenon with a wide spectrum of meanings. Even if several composers have a common object of depicting, a common theme and a common ideological viewpoint, they cannot create identical pieces of music. Thus, in our research we will attempt to clarify how youngsters understand, feel, perceive and associate the artistic images of various genres of music cognizing the phenomena occurring in the world and reflecting them in art. Here it is possible to comprehend their thinking, emotional attitude, their perception of similarities and differences of various phenomena and objects,  exploring and comparing them.

            Key words: image, image of art, image of music, element of the language of music





Until now, music science has concerned about the structure and contents of compositions, the history and theory of music for the greatest part. Little attention has been drawn to problems related to youngsters’ comprehension of music and an image of art in the process of listening to music in which artistic transformation of the form, idea and feelings into fine arts has been employed. Thus the aim of the research is to characterize an image, an image of art and music, to clarify how the youngsters synthesize images of music and art in fine arts in the process of listening to music.

The methods of the research:

·                           theoretical: the analysis of the literature related to philosophy, art, music pedagogy and methodology;

·                           empirical: observation and the processing of drawings.


1.     General characterization of the image and the image of art and music


An image is a conception used not only in art science, but also in philosophy and psychology. For example, in psychology G. Breslav and other scientists interpret an  image as a sensuous element of the psyche, a basic unit which characterizes concurrent  entirety of the psychic reflection and wholeness which ensure continuous orientation of human beings’ actions in time and space and the purposefulness of these activities. The dimension of the content is unlimited and represented simultaneously. A group of the scientists of Latvia distinguishes the following types of the image:

·                           after-image- a very temporary or permanent state of excitation;

·                           eidetic- a clear and complete photographic reflection of an object to the utmost;

·                           secondary- these are percepts and images of figurative thinking and imagination connected with the transformation of the information received previously.

A. Sohor (1962), E. Nazaykynsky (1980), V. Petrushin (1997), in their turn, acknowledge that an image refers to the types of the human psyche (senses, percepts, conceptions, emotions), which  demonstratively reflect a totality of material objects [2].

In psychology, characterizing perception and percepts, these authors acknowledge that it is the reflection of an object in the human brain, which, in an appropriate moment, works on the organs of senses. But the senses are regarded as a source of a person’s cognition and constitute the basis for the formation of perception. A percept is an image of an object created by memory. Unlike perception and a percept, the senses reflect just a separate characteristic of an object, but do not create an image as a whole [2].

Considering the factors mentioned above, A. Sohor accentuates that each psychic phenomenon corresponds with a worked out in the practice of humanity material form by which this phenomenon become embodied in reality. Under the usual circumstances, the demonstrative percept materializes into an image, a conception- into a word, but emotions- into the movement of expression (a gesture, mimicry, intonation) [3].

Thus it is possible to see how a succession of causations takes shape to comprehend the nature of an artistic work and its attitude towards the reality and the possible synthesis of different kinds of art and their interconnections.

   Next, we shall dwell upon the conception of an artistic image and its interconnections. This question has been investigated by I. Borev (1972), A. Sohor (1962), B. Jusov (1995), H. Bruhn, R. Oerter, H. Rjosing (1993) [4].

            I. Borev (1972) interprets an image of art as a form of the content of art, a form of thinking in art. It is an allegoric, metaphoric thought which reveals one phenomenon by the way of another one. An artist makes these phenomena encounter to produce sparks, which floodlight life with a new light [4]. 

            A similar thought is expressed by A. Sohov (1962). He argues that, similarly any image of the reality, an image of art comes into existence in the consciousness as a subjective and ideal reflection of the objective reality, which is materialized by an artist afterwards. The content and form of an image of art has certain peculiarities [5].

            He believes that an image of art is not an abstract and logical reflection of reality and it cannot be rendered by dint of notions, conceptions only. An abstract thought, irrespective how truthful and deep it is (‘existence determines consciousness’, ‘contradictions promote  development’), is not an artistic image yet. It does not necessarily mean, A. Sohor adds, art does not expresses thoughts. On the contrary, the value of a work of art is determined by the presence of grand, profound, and worthwhile ideas in it first of all [5].

            Of course, it cannot be concluded that the creation of a work of art is closely connected with ideas and an appropriate way of thinking. Many authors discuss that. Thus, in art Z. Kagaine (2005) distinguishes figurative thinking, interprets it, reveals how it operates and how an image of art comes into existence. She urges everybody to get acquainted with oneself through colours when a person observes, listens, thinks, and creates, thus developing the world of senses, imagination, fantasy, logic, intuition and so forth [6].

            It is possible to bond the phenomena mentioned above to the perception and analysis of a work of art, logical thinking. Thus, I. Borev (1972) accentuates that an image conforms to the complexity, diversity, and esthetic wealth of the life itself. The attitude of the critical analysis towards an image is a process of unrestricted oncoming and penetration. If logical thinking is regarded not as a single act, but as a historical process, then this process has great power to analyze of the most complicated object as well as an image of art.

            Having examined the investigations carried out by S. Ozola (2006), S. Erliha (2004), a. Druvaskalne-Urdze (2004), G. Pankevich (1987) and other ones in which the synthesis and interaction of different kinds of art have been revealed, it is possible to acknowledge that there exists the objective basis of the content, which is rooted in the analysis of images [7].

            As far the art of music is concerned, the contents of music including all the images of music employed always disclose the objective reality. In this connection, G. Pankevich (1987) accentuates that the interaction of music with other kinds of art (fine arts and others) enables to realize their mutual connection in the course of historical development, their synthetic functions in culture and a common character- artistic reflection and artistic logic. Thus, the understanding of what is different and what is congenial in respect of art and other kinds of art arises [7].

 common the differences and what music and other kinds of art have in common is acquired [7].            

            Not in vain, B. Asafyev (1947) claims that music talks to a person in “a direct language of the soul”. Music tugs at a person’s heartstrings with its sorrow and joy, sadness and indefinitely numerous other feelings. The whole life is woven into music. In images of music originate from emotions and feelings of a person. B. Asafyev has emphasized that a thought is to become intonation in order to be expressed in sounds. The most valuable in his theory of intonation seems to be an indication that music is a sounding, soniferous art, a really “pronounced” figurative “speech”. Music does not exist beyond the process of intonation [8; 92]

            Furthermore B. Asafyev notes that emotional experience and an idea conveyed in a pathetic way, both expressed in peculiar sounds, the basis of which are intonations of the human speech, embody the essence of an image of art. 

            Characterizing an image of music, B. Asafyev distinguishes the most essential elements and expressive means of the language of music. They are the following:

·                           intonative melodic structure;

·                           harmony;

·                           instrumentation;

·                           rhythm;

·                           timbre;

·                           dynamics.

Thereby it is possible to conclude that the objective reality is reflected in the content of music. This reflection can, of course, be profound or superficial, truthful or malformed, but the content of music is rooted in the real life. Thus music clutches to our bosom, invites intense and virtuous feelings, provokes profound philosophical thoughts, makes the world around and one’s destiny more comprehensible, reveals emotional experiences, instantaneous moods of the soul, depicts significant for a person scenes of the reality, and shows attitude of person towards it. 


2. The interpretation of images used in a composition of music in fine arts


54 7th, 8th, 9th grade pupils of Daugavpils Russian lyceum (Latvia) participated in the research carried out in September 2006. The aim of the research was to discover how the images which are used in music are interpreted in fine arts. There have been used several ways of reproduction: painting, drawing and computer graphics. The pupils were offered to audit three themes of a symphonic poem “Vltawa”, in which different images are used by Czech composer Bedrzhih Smetana (1824-1884). This is the most glaring part of the cycle “My native land”. A poetical programme, in which the image of the grand river Vltava flowing through the whole Czech Republic personifies the native land, constitutes its basis. Here two brooks flowing through the frigid forests and converging afterwards form the beginning of the river Vltava (the 1st theme: see a fragment of Figure 2.1.). The river Vlatava flows though the forests in which hunting-horns are heard, through cornfields where wealthy crop is harvested. The joyous sounds of the country wedding reach its banks (the 2nd theme: see Figure 2.2). In the moonlight  mermaids sway in waves singing their songs full of magic (the 3rd theme: see Figure 2.3). The ancient castle ruins, which store memories about past glory and heroic deeds, hear out these songs.

Figure 2.1. A fragment of the 1st theme “ The river Vltava”


Figure 2.2. A fragment of the 3rd theme ”The country wedding”



Figure 2.3. A fragment of the 2nd theme ”Mermaids in the moonlight”




Having listened to the piece of music repeatedly, immersing themselves into the contents of the composition, having analyzed the elements and expressive means of the language of music  employed, the youngsters articulated their feelings, thoughts, views, emotions, associations, fantasy, and perception by drawing, painting and by means of computer graphics (see Figures 2.4., 2.5., 2.6., 2.7.). 

            For example, 8th grade pupil Ksenija P., 9th grade pupil Anastasija I., 7th grade pupils Aleksandra P. and Artjoms L. hold a mirror up the images using a palette of warm colours.

The 1st theme “ The river Vltava” (2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7)

The 2nd theme “Mermaids in the moonlight” (2.6, 2.7)

The 3rd theme ”The country wedding” (2.6, 2.7)

Anastasija I (1-2.5) portrays the beginning of the flow of the river Vltava, which originates from the two brooks flowing out from the Shumava forests. Therefore the river is very narrow at the beginning, but it broadens afterwards. It flows through the mountains and forests. The music as well is mysterious and calm at the beginning. Light sounds of the flute are heard. Here there is gladness and a bit impetuous mood is reflected. “I feel a bit proud”, Anastasija I. Writes. Ksenija P., in her turn, portrays the broader part of the flow of the river “ Vltava” with a denser palette of colours.


Figure 2.4 The river Vltava

Ksenija P.


Figure 2.5 The river Vltava

Anastasija I.


While Artjom L. (see figure 2.7), employing computer graphics, and Aleksandra P. in her drawing (see Figure 2.6) very successfully reflects all the three images. Characterizing the country wedding, Artjom L. writes with adoration: “The river is flowing further, and there the sounds of cheerfulness and enjoyment are heard, the turning and… a crowd of people are sitting at the table. But who are the main characters of the scene. The bridegroom and the bride, of course. Dance music is played and all the people dance to the music. I want to get on my feet and join the joint cheerfulness, too. And suddenly a different kind of music is heard: mysterious and fascinating, which reminds of a glamorous dream. Incomprehensibly. What’s that? Some thinks it is a mermaid dance, but some believes it is a dance of elves. Anyway, it is a very inconceivable, unimaginable melody, where in the moonlight mermaids are swinging in the waves of the river and singing adorable songs.



Figure 2.6 Image of the river Vltava, mermaids, and the country wedding by Aleksandra P.



Figure 2.7 Image of the river Vltava, mermaids, and the country wedding by Artjom L.


Having analyzed the drawings and the descriptions of them, we ascertain that the youngsters perceive, comprehend, compare adequately the images employed in the piece of music. There is no discrepancy between the objective contents of the image of music and the subjective outlook of the youngsters. The development of the musical image is realized by dint of the comprehension of its sense. Thus, the formation of the musical image is a result of perception which manifests itself as the musical activity of youngsters in connection with fine arts.




·                           An image is closely connected with the human psychic processes (feelings, perception, percepts, associations, thinking etc.) as a whole and ensures purposeful activity of a person and its orientation in space and time.

·                           An image always weaves together what cannot be connected, unites what  cannot be brought together, reveals previously unfamiliar and obscure  characteristics and relationships of real things, phenomena and processes. A picturesque is polysemantic. Profound and extensive is the sense of the image.

·                           A work of art originates from the consciousness as a subjective and ideal reflection of the objective reality, which is realized creatively through an appropriate form and content by an artist or a composer.

·                           An image comprises not only facts of the reality, which are processed by a creative fantasy of an artist, a composer, but also the attitude of an artist, a composer towards the portrayal.

·                           The unity of the objective and the subjective, emotionality as a significant primary source is of utter importance to an image of art.

·                           Images of music are created by dint of sound. The sound as a basic element of the musical figurativeness and expressiveness does not inhere the concreteness of a sense of a word, does not reconstruct the scenes of the visible world as in art of painting. Accordingly, an artistic image is organized with the elements and expressive means of the language of music in a specific way, and it bears an intonative character.

·                           Music is capable of generalizing the characteristic features of the disclosed phenomena, the mood and character of a person, first of all.

·                           The youngsters, having acquainted with the phenomena occurring in the world in respect of different kinds of music, have successfully synthesized and transformed the elements of an image of art and music into fine arts. Thereby the formation of a musical image is a result of perception that,  on the whole, encourages the mechanisms of the psychic process of the youngsters (feelings, creative thinking), promotes the development of the sphere of feelings (emotional experience, esthetic feelings), emotional attitude towards images, which are not insignificant in the area of cultural education of youngsters.




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[2] Sohor, A. (1962) Music as a kind of art. Riga: Latvijas Valsts izdevnieciba.- 121.

Nazaykynsky E. (1980) Musical perception as a problem musical literacy.// Perception of music.- Moscow, 101.

Petrushin, B. (1997) Musical psychology.- Moscow, 200.


[3] Sohor, A. (1962) Music as a kind of art. Riga: Latvijas Valsts izdevnieciba.- 121.


[4] Borev, I. (1972) Esthetics. Riga: Liesma.- 291.

Sohor, A. (1962) Music as a kind of art. Riga: Latvijas Valsts izdevnieciba.- 121.

Yusov, B. (1995) When all art together. Murmansk.- 175.

Bruhn, H; Oerter, R.; Rosing, H. (Hg) (1993) Musik psychologie: Ein Handbuch.- Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag., 195.


[5] Sohor, A. (1962) Music as a kind of art. Riga: Latvijas Valsts izdevnieciba.- 121.


[6] Kagaine Z. (2005) Imaginative thinking in visual art..// To see- to feel- to think- to create. Riga: Zvaigzne.- 62.


[7] Ozola, S. (2006) The perception and influence of the colour. Riga: Jumava.- 149.

Erliha, S. (2004) Synthesis and interaction of music and fine art in reproduction of phenomena of life and nature. GA 7th International conference- Politecnico di Milano University, Italy, 233- 244.

Druvaskalne-Urdze, A. (1999) The synthesis of the colour and the sound as a method. Riga: Raka.   

Pankevich, G.I. (1987) The art of music. Moscow: Znanye.- 111.


[8] Asafyev, B. (1947) The musical form as a process. The 2nd book. Intonation.- 92