How to paint music?
Oguna is playing a song for Phoenix. The Phoenix is so enchanted, that in the end she will offer him immortality. But now the only thing that matters are the sounds of Oguna’s flute filling the air.
From Phoenix: Yamato by Osamu Tezuka
Oh man this is great! I’m always looking for examples of drawing music in comics because it’s something I’ve really struggled with—how to represent music in the comics medium—that I’ve yet to find a satisfactory solution for.
The reason I’m so concerned is that playing music was a big part of my life from the 4th grade to my senior year in high school when I played the clarinet and saxophone in a variety of different school bands. I also experience sound-color synesthesia, so I can literally “see” music as ever changing blobs of color. So I know all about playing music and seeing music—but how do I draw music? Especially in a way the audience can understand; I can throw all the yellow-orange spiky shapes I want in a comic but no one but me will understand I’m representing a trumpet fanfare, I can be literal and write out the sheet music but only those that can read it will understand. There’s got to be a better way.
I like Tezuka’s representation of music here as a set piece, the reader can get lost in the swirling, undulating patterns and flowers* much like the characters have gotten lost in the flute music. It’s a beautiful solution for this kind of splash page. But I don’t think this kind of rendering would work if the music was taking a more active role? I’m having a hard time explaining exactly what I mean, but if let’s say you were doing a comic about a band practicing, where the main action of the story was the musicians learning their parts and repeating things over and over and screwing up and changing genres and time signatures and volume I don’t think “beautiful expressive lines” everywhere would really cut it.
I have no idea what would though, so I’ll keep on looking.
*can’t have something holy happen in eastern religious texts without flowers raining down as celestial music and perfumes fill the air!