In June, avant-garde artist, educator, inventor and musician Marcus Brown released Peinture Concrete. But this danceable, heavily synthesized and jazz-infused album wasn’t made in the traditional sense. The son of an electrical engineer, Brown is a natural tinkerer. His curiosity about how things work coupled with a passion for art and music led him to invent a new process for creating art and soundscapes, down to the altered and amplified tools he uses. Brown dubbed this new medium “electro-sonic painting.”
Wielding brushes outfitted with gyroscopes and laser sensors to elicit waves of sound and stuttering beats for each mark of his canvas, Brown says it’s like painting with a microphone. His canvas, called an “electro-board,” is customized with MIDI technology allowing him to record the sounds emitted with every press or stroke of the surface—like playing a keyboard.
The multi-instrumentalist who’s played music for 10 years explains, “I wanted to do this album to have some record of the painting as well as of what the painting sounds like. And also to make something interesting, that has beat, rhythm and that’s enjoyable for people to listen to.”
Peinture Concrete (a title that pays homage to the 1940s French noise movement Musique Concrète) blends technology and tradition, visual and audio, and each song on the album represents a layer of the painting. “I want people to get the concept that this album is literally a painting,” Brown says. “They say, ‘Oh, you’re feeling the vibes’. Well yeah, but I’m also making them. Painting and making music are one process, one thing in electro-sonic painting.”
Brown teaches sculpture to high school students at NOCCA and is hosting a summer course at Country Day on electro-sonic painting. “If you take a piece of paper, place on a wooden table and draw on it with a pencil,” he says, “you can hear the sound of writing, the sound of scratching. And that’s what the whole art form came out of, listening to the surface.”