Milton Glaser as Sound

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I have chosen to write a creative synesthesia on Milton Glaser’s “Bob Dylan” graphic design. When relating this illustration to sound it would be quite easy to say that it evokes Bob Dylan’s early career. Though I do feel that this illustration of Bob Dylan is reminiscent of the way the music that he created during the 1960s sounds, I would like to go a little broader and talk about why.

When translating this illustration into sound it reminds me of the way that a small quiet room sounds like. The silhouette of Bob Dylan and the minimalist way his portrait was drawn is what evokes this. It reminds me of the sound of a clean, bright room with minimal amounts of furniture. As you are experiencing the sound of this room, maybe someone has turned on a stereo. Music is bursting from one corner of the room, flowing out of the speaker and entering your ears, eventually filling up the tiny space with colourful sounds. The sound is both experimental and pleasant. There are many layers and components to it, almost reminiscent of an orchestra but flow-ier and more wonky, less perfect. You can hear the dynamics and the play between the once silent room, now filling up with tremendous sound.

This portrait is part of the psychedelic movement in art. During this movement artists wanted to create posters that made the viewer feel as if they were on psychedelic drugs. I wanted to relate music to this particular poster because, for one reason, music and psychedelic art go hand in hand, and two, because Bob Dylan is an extremely influential folk artist, who I would not champion as an extremely forefront figure in the psychedelic drug scene. This particular graphic design is a little different from typical psychedelic posters, as it utilises the space differently. Psychedelic posters tend to fill the entire page with colour and illustrative text and images that feel as if they are optical illusions. Milton Glaser’s image touches on the psychedelic style in a more minimalist way, due to the silhouetted portrait and the only touch of fluid colour flowing outwards as Bob Dylan’s hair. I think this image is reminiscent of the way that Bob Dylan could fill a quiet room with music, especially music from his protest song career in the 1960s. He could get an entire crowd of people to listen to him with songs that were musically simple, but with a strong and empowering message. This image also reminds me of the song “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles. The song starts off as if the Beatles are signing in a small room, with good acoustics and an echo, like a bathroom. As the song progresses it builds up to an explosion of sound, dynamic and constantly changing. The song is as layered as the colours in the image and flows into an encompassing sound in a way that is reminiscent of the illustration.

The portrait of Bob Dylan created by Milton Glaser evokes the music of psychedelic artists of the 1960s. This illustration reminds the viewer of Bob Dylan’s folk career, especially of his career in the early 1960s when he became popular for his protest songs. Personally, this image reminds me of the song “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles because of its dynamics, contrast and booming layered sound.

 

Works Cited

The Beatles. “A Day in the Life.” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, EMI                  Studio and Reagent Sound Studio,                                                 1967. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usNsCeOV4GM

Bob Dylan. “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Bringing It All Back Home, Columbia Recording Studios, 1965.

Bob Dylan. “Mr. Tambourine Man (Live at the Newport Folk Festival. 1964).” 1964, Fort Adams State Park. BobDylan TV. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeP4FFr88SQ

Glaser, Milton. “Bob Dylan.” Offset lithograph. 1966, Museum of Modern Art.

Punk Rock and the Influence of the Dada Movement

Punk style can be said to have taken a leaf out of Dada’s book, especially Jamie Reid’s cover for the Sex Pistols’ “Never Mind the Bollocks”. This particular cover can be said to be inspired from, and be comparable to, Hannah Höch’s “Cut with a Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany”.

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Front and back cover for The Sex Pistol’s “Never Mind the Bollocks” designed by Jamie Reid.

Both the punks and the Dadaists created their artistic and social movements because they were upset with the way the government was treating society, as well as being upset with current events. Dada came about because the First World War attracted pascifists to move to Switzerland, who remained a neutral country throughout the entirety of it. Dadaists were sceptical of the way that art was being pushed and promoted by the governments of the fighting countries to only acknowledge patriotic art that manipulated the masses into doing their government’s bidding. Punk rockers were upset with the government as well, as more of an aftermath of two World Wars, as well as the Vietnamese war. They were not content with the promotion of consumerism, as exemplified in the Clash song, “Lost in the Supermarket”. Punk rockers also were weary of the role of mass media, realizing that it was not as grounded in reality as it was being promoted. Though Dada claims to be nonsensical, I do not think Dada was completely nonsensical as they would have us believe, otherwise Hannah Höch would have named her piece something different, as her current title “Cut with a Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany,” has blatant political undertones. Both art styles use nonsense and anti-design to both mask and embellish the concepts they are trying to propel.

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Hannah Höch’s, “Cut with a Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany” side by side the with “Never Mind the Bollocks” back cover.

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A dominating factor of punk rock style has been the use of DIY. Any image of a punk rocker from it’s conception will illustrate a young person clad in leather and metal featuring an array of patches, buttons, painted artwork and about any other creative way for young punks to express themselves through their clothing. No exception to this was the role art played in the punk community, especially when referring to the Riot grrrl era. Much of the artwork from this particular subculture was made quickly and loosely with DIY and the human hand a strong stylistic feature. The zine played a major role in both regular punk rock and Riotgrrrl communities. A good example of a zine that displays all of these characteristics would be the first Riot grrrl zine created, “Riot grrrl” and their manifesto.

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This is the Riot Grrrl manifesto, farther up is the first issue of the “Riot grrrl” zine which was created by Molly Neuman.

Stylistically, there is much that Punk style borrowed from the Dadaists, who were prominent almost fifty years before them. The collage is a major characteristic of Punk style. Dada was the first style of art to make use of the technique of collage professionally. Another comparison between the two, is the ransom note style of writing, something punk also adopted from Dada. The difference between the first two characteristics is that punk art was made to be read mostly coherently, while Dada posters could be as incoherent as they pleased. Höch’s piece has a much more unified colour palette, due to the mostly monochromatic images she collaged together. The Jamie Reid piece also has a unified colour palette, but this palette is much more contrasted than the Dada piece. Though it is highly contrasted it is still a three colour piece, with good balance of each color. Punk has a strong sense of DIY aesthetic, which can also be said to be adopted from Dada and it’s love for creating nonsensical designs. Many Dada art pieces also look DIY, Höch’s piece looks DIY, with the collaging of different source materials, Hugo Ball’s costume in Karawane also looks do-it-yourself. The human hand very much played a role in the aesthetic of Dada art. Both punk and Dada don’t really follow any design rules, this was an important part of the Dada movement in fact, creating anti-art. This resulted in art that doesn’t really follow any layouts, texts that floats any way it wants, things in different orientations and images and text layered on top of each other to the point of incomprehension, among other things.

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Hugo Ball performing the sound peom Karawane in Zurich.

Without the Dadaist’s experimentation of many different kinds of aspects of design, Punk style would not look quite the same as it did in the seventies. Punk borrowed many things the Dadaist’s created and called fine art before any other art collectives did. Much of punk art owes many of it’s designs a nod to the Dada movement, almost like punks before punk rock was realized.

Works Cited

Drucker, Johanna, and Emily McVarish. Graphic Design History: A Critical                       Guide. 2nd edition, Pearson, 2013.

Hannah Höch, Cut with a Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar                          Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany, collage, 1919-1920.

Hugo Ball, Karawane in costume, Zurich, 1916.

Jamie Reid, Sex Pistols album cover, Never Mind the Bollocks, 1977.

“Riot grrrl (Zine).” Riot grrrl (Zine) – ZineWiki – the history and culture of                  zines, independent media and the small press.,                                                            zinewiki.com/Riot_grrrl_(zine).

The Clash, “Lost in the Supermarket”, London Calling, 1979.