top of page
  • Writer's pictureJennifer Tham

Eye music : the sight of sound

Updated: Feb 8

New music deserves a new way of listening—listening with our eyes.

Our eyes help us make sense of non-sense—our allies, when it comes to performing music with no singalong melodies or blanket harmonies.

Our eyes see patterns of light, of movement—music-like relationships—where our ears fail us. They see dissonance and antiphony, loose canons and tight hymnody, in 50 shades of slow, 6 degrees of separation, 20 steps behind and 3 steps in-your-face.

The SYC has experimented with staging the sight of sound since the late 1990s, when our music became more and more esoteric. [See previous post on new music, choral theatre and the staging of Hoh's Birth and Death.] Theatre becomes us, in our advocacy of living music, a music for the eyes. Augenmusik, updated.

Speaking of eye music, our practice has been enriched by the work and words of R Murray Schafer. His choral-graphic scores are theatrical scripts, with muggle-appeal, and perform on (in?) us. To see them is to hear them. Look—

Sunrise, and snowfall—

Graphic scores draw the music, as in "to paint" and also "to pull (out)" the music from us. Schafer's music is challenging to learn and perform, but our eyes hear, and the body responds. Schafer grew up as a choirboy, taught classroom music, initiated the World Soundscape Project that archived lost sounds, drew many of these lost sounds into his choral soundscapes, into words that sing off the page.

Jennifer Tham, ink drawing for a listening wall, a gift project
Jennifer Tham, Soundescape (Gift Project)

Inspired by the visuality of Schafer's music, here's my maiden attempt at a soundscape—the scoring of James Joyce's thunder-word from Finnegan's wake—made for a Listening Wall, a gift for a sound ecologist classmate friend.

Do you hear what I hear?

Eye hear | I ear, 2018.

113 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page