Dicating letters, music... and art?

You can dictate a letter and a secretary will write down what you said.

You can dictate a composition and a scribe will notate what you asked.

Has anyone ever tried to dictate art in the same way?

(Great Debates bonus: if I dictated the art to a scribe, would I be the artist?)

Maybe we should try this in MPSIMS.

If you consider engravings to be art, it happens all the time.

I would hazard to guess that art directors do this all the time.

Reading about the poster for the new play that Julia Roberts is in here in NYC, the artist noted that he’d done ten ‘visualizations’ for the poster, and elements from each were used for the final product. (Noteworthy in that Miss Roberts’ face does NOT appear.)


Oh yeah, and commissioned portraits! “Paint me in this outfit, with this background, in this position. Add a few inches in height while you’re at it.”

Well, Dale Chihuly is the Jim Davis of the art-glass world…

Many of the 16th & 17th Century art masters seemed to do something like this. They had assistants who painted works that the Master had designed, under his supervision. Look up the “School of Rembrandt” or Vermeer & the “School of Delft”. Many of these assistants or students went on to become major artists in their own right.

You might consider works done in this apprenticeship as ‘dictated’ by the Master.

Well, there is the obvious problem of not having a method for “dictating” a visual image that is as precise and unambiguous as words or music.

For instance, if I say to my scribe, “Write this: ‘It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,’” eventually we’ll have A Tale of Two Cities. If I say, “Violins play three eighth notes on G and a half note on E,” we’ll get Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. But if I say, “Paint a woman with long brown hair and a sort of a half smile,” it is by no means certain that we’ll get the Mona Lisa.

Of course, in the world of computers one can imagine someone specifying a picture by saying, “First six pixels FFFFFF, seventh pixel 191970…” and so on. But although good musicians can compose music in their heads and dictate it (see the final scenes of Amadeus), it seems to me highly unlikely that a human could visualize an image of any complexity and translate it into digital values in his mind in this fashion.

That is precisely why I think it’d make an interesting experiment, maybe for folks in Cafe Society: tell them to pick a color that represents their inner peace, then give emotionally laden (but detail-poor) instructions like, “Use your Inner Peace color and give it a place to hide on the canvas. Now take your Angry color and draw with it, representing what you do with your hands when you’re stuck in traffic. Make a bold statement with your Fear color showing how late you are for your appointment.” And give the same instructions to a bunch of people and see what they come up with.

That might be an interesting experiment in group visualization and interpretation.

Agreed that it might be interesting, but literal-minded stickler that I am, I don’t think it would properly be called “dictating.” Guided visualization, visual coaching, or something. But “dictation” implies an exact recording of what the “dictator” intends to compose, without interpretation or alteration (except accidentally). The work of the scribe in transcribing text or music is not creative, but merely “mechanical.”

yBeayf’s suggestion of engraving probably comes closest to “dictating” art. An engraver generally intends to render as accurate a representation of the original artwork as possible. But since the process involves a change of medium, the engraver must make artistic and technical choices that change the work from its original expression.

Yes, interesting. I think it’s also worth pointing out that music has nuances that are probably not capturable by ‘dictation’ at this point… consider the differences you might get if you tell a clasically trained violinist to play the melody to beethoven’s fifth… or a modern rock guitarist. Even if they both play the score as it is written, there’d be all kinds of differences, not just from their instruments, (which could be noted down on paper,) but style, individual differences in timing and pitch that are too fine to be captured through dictation or notation in music. :slight_smile:

This is more of a debate topic, but I think you could call it that.

You can dictate a letter in English, but it can be transcribed into French or Chinese, for the purposes of delivering that communique to the French or Chinese embassies. Who wrote the letter? You did. Setting aside any incompetence in translation, you are responsible for the content of the letter.

You can conduct an orchestra to interpret a score in a certain way. As the conductor it is your interpretation.

Assuming that abstract art has a specific emotional message intended by the artist, you dictate the “score” and then “conduct” your scribes to perform the score which you wrote.

Of course there is art that’s representational, in which case someone might commission an artist to produce art that looks like something (a bridge, a cathedral, a face), but I dunno if I consider that dictating — that’s more like a commission. Then again, there’s a million ways to draw a picture of a subject and give it different emotional contexts.

Do you want to use my Dictaphone? :wink: