Music Lessons

Inspiration: where do you find yours? Should the prayed-for lightning bolt be belated in its striking, to what trusty sources do you turn? For integration of words, images and sounds; for lessons on creating your own opportunities; for innovative ways to package and present products, I often look to album artwork and the inventiveness of those compulsive souls trying to make a living from music.

“Push the envelope”

Tool – Aenima, Lateralus, 10,000 Days

Tool is a band that always produces a complete, well thought out, conceptual package. Guitarist Adam Jones is also a superb stop-motion animator and special effects designer who makes some of their videos and directs the album artwork. Tool albums often have threads running through the music, lyrics, art and packaging. And they always try to do things differently.

1996’s Aenima came in a lenticular case, bringing the booklet to life with moving images on each spread.

5 years later, using an approach reminiscent of my time creating a virtual dissection program for a vet school (oh, the weird and wonderful ways we pass our time!), the insert for Lateralus used layers of acetate to build up a picture. Each layer represented a stratum of the human being: bones, nerves and vessels, organs, muscles, energy, chakras, universal spirit. Beautiful, intricate and a wonderful example of how complex information can be presented in an engaging way

Picture4 Picture3

Moving on to 2006 and Tool were at it again on the album 10,000 Days, this time integrating lenses into the packaging and using stereoscopic imagery to display impressive 3D artwork (photographs and illustrations).

Picture5 Picture6

Always innovative, always interesting, always finely crafted: I come back to these pieces time and time again as reminders of how creative thinking can raise items from the everyday to the extraordinary.

Change with the Game

Radiohead, Hot Chip, Creative Thinking

New technologies come with new challenges, and no-one wants to be left behind. In 2007, Radiohead took a leap into the unknown, releasing 7th album In Rainbows as a pay-what-you-want download following a split from their record company. This year (2015), in a bid to keep physical formats competitive against digital sales, electro band Hot Chip tried something new with bespoke printing. They’ve used an algorithm to vary the colour and design for each copy, meaning every single LP and CD unit will be unique… and therefore (they hope) desirable.

The music industry’s struggle to survive in a digital environment has been well documented. But while the businessmen worry about maintaining the status quo, it’s the musicians themselves, the creatives, who are innovating and working out how they fit into an ever-changing landscape. Platforms like Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Kickstarter have given artists the opportunity to showcase themselves and generate cash flow in new ways. Belfast band …And So I Watch You From Afar managed to crowd-source funds for a new tour van after their first vehicle gave up the ghost on a gruelling European schedule. Fans got different downloadable ‘rewards’ depending on the value of their contribution.

Long-time Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood discusses the integration of physical and digital media in this interview with ABC Arts. Below are two quotes pertinent to my own work in healthcare advertising:

“The physical package can be more than just a printed version [of the digital] and has the chance to be something more covetable.” 

“It’s still about … the story an artist wants to tell. That’s the most important part… that hasn’t really changed, and probably won’t.”

Regardless of channel, we must constantly adapt and invent ways to tell stories that engage minds. My inspiration is found not just in the songs these people play, or the accompanying artwork, but by the way creativity is integral to every aspect of their lives.

I’ll be interested to hear: Have you been inspired by a piece of album art? In what surprising ways have albums or artists influenced you? And where else have you found unexpected parallels and parables that inform your work?

Mike B

Categories: Inspire me

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4 replies »

  1. Nice article. Another example within the story and packaging of an album is X-102 ‘Discovers Rings of Saturn’ where not only were the tracks about Saturn (with tracks named after it’s various satellites and moons), but the track lengths meant that each track on the vinyl supposedly mirrored the rings themselves, getting ever closer to the planet as you listened through, thus adding to the overall concept behind the album. Great creative thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

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