Interdisciplinary experiment. Translation from music into fine art – a drawing after “Sandbox of Almach”

I’m interested in fine arts and like to draw and paint sometimes, although I don’t have enough opportunity for it recently. But every now and then, I draw a small illustration in the blanc space of score, just to express my imagination to the piece. Hearing about the increasing number of cooperative projects between different art disciplines nowadays, it came to my mind to draw or paint that image which I got as inspired by the music.

<About the piece “Sandbox of Almach”>

Sandbox of Almach is composed by Ari Romppanen, a piano piece which is based on Roger Caillois’s theory about “children’s play”. This piece consists of four sections that correspond to each movement:

1.  Agon (war, competition; there are winners and losers clearly in every game. Most sports matches are sorted to this category)
2.  Alea (games that depend on coincidence, like dice, slot machine, card game, etc.)
3.  Mimicry (imitation – most children’s plays belong to this category, like robbers and polices, etc.)
4.  Ilinx (dizziness – for example roller coaster, carousel, and other equipment in an amusement park)

Link to the music (33:39 – 48:08)


As the composer mentioned once about this piece as “cosmic sonata”, Sandbox of Almach is constructed like in a sonata form.

The piece opens with the movement Agon; this movement begins with sharp repetitions of chords. After some breaks, the music continues with a character of a toccata. In the middle of this movement, the combination of longer waving passages and sharp chords are played, like a war. At the end of the section, those elements come together which creates a threatening effect.

Alea I is a slow movement; light, fine figures are played in the background of the melody in the bass line. The beginning of this movement is filled with calmness and silence, but gradually the tension increases transforming music into loud and thick texture towards the end of this section, where many fragments are played like improvisation without any indicated order.

Mimicry corresponds to a scherzo movement. Passages in the left and right hand “imitate” and also chase each other, which sound like a canon with humorous character. After this scherzo part, a short reminiscence of the Agon appears, although in a calm atmosphere this time. Following this part, Alea II is placed as an interlude, which has almost an opposite character compared to the first Alea. Melodies in the lowest and middle voice sound with power, and lots of fragments are played above of them improvisationally, which leads to the final movement, Ilinx, the climax of the whole piece.

The main motive (e – a – b – e flat), which has been present on every movement, opens Ilinx like a fanfare. Many motives are divided into each layer and sound thick, almost without breaks. After the short insertion of a fragment of Agon, the chaotic character continues, and at the end of Ilinx all motives appear together, also with the main motive as its clearest, and the same chaos triumphantly closes the whole piece.

<Drawing after the piece>

During the preparation for the first performance of this piece in Vienna, 16th October 2020, I made a drawing that was inspired by the piece. It’s divided into four parts, exactly like the piece consists of four movements, and each part corresponds to each movement and expresses their character. I’d like to share my observations during making this drawing.


For Agon, the first elements which were in my mind were a triangle and a circle, which are the main shapes in this picture. There are also many straight lines and angular shapes in the background. I wonder why I wanted to put a circle; it can be possible that I wanted to show a battle between different characters as if a triangle tries to defeat the circle. With the angular shapes in the background, I wanted to express many other battles, and also explosions. The short waves with dots on the corner right below are kind of falling stones from a rock wall.

In the section for Alea, a long, curved line with the shadow which divides the picture lengthwise, is drawn in the middle of the picture. The main three shapes (a circle, a triangle, and a square) and vertical lines must have been influenced by falling (going down) passages in the music, in which I’ve imagined a kind of slot machine. In general, drawn lines are the finest in the whole drawing, and figures are small. There is also lots of blanc space. These correspond to the music which is generally quiet, fine and soft, and includes lots of brakes and fermatas. What would be the relationship between the curved line and other shapes? I didn’t have any clear purpose about it when drawing it but thinking back of the moment, I had in my unconscious mind a kind of layer of long, low sound in the bass and light falling passages in the right hand, and translated them to the curved line in the background and other figures in the forefront.

I had a clear image for the drawing of the next section, Mimicry: a drama at a theater. I borrowed the idea from a symbol of the theater deriving from Ancient Greece, which is used as the main figure of this section. In the background, there are two diagonal lines with stitches; I imagined a surface of a leather couch with some tears or stains. I tried to make the elements in the surface overall symmetric but not exactly, like the music in the Mimicry itself is written like that.

For the last section Ilinx, I drew a whirlpool, which seems similar to a black hole, swallowing up everything. I tried to draw the whirlpool as dizzy as possible. There are some small shapes, like a circle, a triangle, etc. which appeared also in other sections. This corresponds to that all used motives and elements are together in the music which ends in great chaos.


I got those ideas to the drawing not always just from the music but also from knowledge, title, explanation about Caillois’s theory (although I haven’t read his book at that time but just a summary of it). If I didn’t know about the theme of the music, it can be totally another thing – especially about Mimicry, in which my drawing is based on a quite concrete image. Still, it’s also true that I got lots of ideas from music (sound), without it, it would have been more difficult, especially to express “time”.

For comparison, the picture below is the one which I’ve shaped with a foam cray. About the music, I’ve known just the title but nothing else. The duration was about 20 minutes, and there were various characters, but I could express just a “summary” of my impression of the music.


Music: “Convolvulus” by Ari Romppanen
composed for the project “Kierrot” (January – February 2021) organized by Cirko

The music itself is an abstract art form. On the other hand, music can express something concrete – or does music express a personal “impression” of the composer from something concrete? Or can it be different between tonal and atonal music? In fact, I’ve seen that many children drew pictures like flowers, animals, etc. after listening to (tonal) music in school or music lessons. I’m already interested in research and write about this question in the future.