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Blues Record Revival

The Question

How can abstract and formal experimentation help make old blues music accessible and attractive to new listeners?

The Process

Revamp the aesthetic landscape of the blues by showcasing the narrative of one song on each album cover. Initially I started by sketching and concepting on how to show the narratives through different means including collage, numbered progression, formal equations, and geometric abstraction.  After these early sketches I decided to show the song's conflict or moral dilemma by the juxtaposition of overlaid transparencies, each containing a single image that comes from nouns or actions that occur in the representative song.  As a formal rule I decided that subjects that appeared in multiple songs must use the same graphic element, though the placement would change for each song. Another rule was that a blue figure representing the main character must appear in the same place on each cover overlayed by the artist's name. 

Initially I started the covers by first creating a paper collage and then scanning them at high resolution to colorize them. This approach was too controlled, so I began to digitally place graphic elements within the square frames without concerning myself where the other elements were located. The final collage was not seen until the end when all the transparencies were finally stacked with the type layers.  The serendipitous overlap created dynamic juxtaposition and conflict between the elements. While overlaying the transparencies, I began to experiment with the order that the sheets were overlayed. The order that the transparencies were placed controlled which elements were more dominate in the composition. Certain colors, like yellow and light grey, had a tendency to fade or meld together into new shapes when placed further back in the stack. The layers containing type were also given nuance when overlayed with dense graphics. The blue album titles always had to be the top layer, while the artist name always had to be much farther back. If the artist name was too close to the top the type would stand out against the rest of the cover and appear discordant with the rest of the album art.

The next step was to create the back covers using the same method of stacking transparencies. When overlayed the small differences in layered space created shallow drop shadows that bring depth into the back cover and unites the two sides of the album. 

The Label

These proposed record redesigns are being distributed under the fictional record label Blues Record Revival. This label re-releases early to mid-19th century American blues albums in hopes of bringing this historically influential music form to a younger generation. Topics covered in the chosen records range from love lost to the inevitability of death.