Select Page

Last week we listened to music without words that told a story. In particular, we learned about a piece of music written to tell the story of climate change exclusively through climate data assigned to particular notes. Today I have a link to a graphic designer who tells the story of music on the album covers and liner notes of contemporary music CDs.

Denise Burt didn’t know anything about contemporary classical music when she started designing album covers. But, she was a good listener, and this skill helped her translate aural images into visual ones. The music itself spoke of metaphors and possibilities and pictures that she was able to decipher and transform into language that reflected the music and drew people into these possibilities as well.

Much earlier in this series, I wrote about the fact that everything that exists is made up of sound. String theory posits that all life is made up of “tiny vibrating strings” and the only difference between each string is its “resonant pattern, or how it vibrates.”

If all of creation is made up of sound, then certainly one of our tasks as caretakers of creation is to help others “hear” and join in the song of this creation.

We are called to be translators!

But if we are to do that task well, we must first become good listeners: so that our images and metaphors invite others into the joy of the dance. We must become good listeners: so that we capture both the essentials and the essence of what we are hearing. And we must become good listeners: so that we are continually opening ourselves to hear the new, the obscure, and the unfamiliar.

When Denise Burt started listening to contemporary music, she was a skilled graphic designer. In order to become a skilled interpreter, she made a conscious choice to listen with open ears, heart and mind, and to get to know the composers before each project.

What translation projects are on your plate for this week? Are you listening well? What are you overlooking that will bring the new interpretation to life?


NPR “Look at This” episode

featuring Denise Burt’s cover art for 9 works of contemporary classical music


Pictures at an Exhibition, arranged for orchestra by Maurice Ravel

Modest Mussorgsky

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mariss Jansons

Mussorgsky’s composition is designed as a guided walk through an art gallery. Read more about the work here.


Pictures at an Exhibition in it’s original piano version

Evgeny Kissen