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Andell Family Sundays Anytime—Listening and Dancing with Line

October 24, 2021
Elonda Norris, Teaching Artist

Do you ever find yourself tapping your toes, drumming your fingers, or twirling through the kitchen when you listen to your favorite song? Once you get going and you're flowing, you don’t really even need to think about how to match your movements to the melody. The same thing can happen when you listen to music while you draw. “Sound” fun? Let’s get going!

Elise Cavanna Seeds Armitage Welton, Intersected Flow, no date, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Estates of James B. and Jane C. Welton, © Museum Associates/LACMA

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

  • Pencil
  • Sheet of paper
  • Crayon, or other drawing tool taped or tied to the end of a long stick (You may need a partner to help you attach it tightly!)
  • Large sheet of paper, or even a paper grocery bag cut open, flattened, and taped to the wall
  • Music you enjoy
  • Flashlight (optional)

Step 2: Listening

Let’s listen to our breath. Notice how the air whooshes into your nose and slowly pffffffs out as you exhale. Do this a few times until you feel a rhythm. Now pick up your pencil and draw a line to match your breath. Draw a line up as you inhale, then bring your line back down as you exhale. Your lines can be long or short, fast or slow—just match the pace of your breath. 

Begin to notice the other sounds around you: the hum of the refrigerator, or a freeway nearby. Maybe you can hear a bird outside. Whatever the sound, add it to your line drawing.

At this point, your ears are really observing lots of detail. Keeping up that same active listening, put on your music. What do you hear? Is the sound fast and choppy or smooth and slow? Try to pick one instrument or voice to follow. Can you hear loops or zigzags in the sound?

Step 3: Dancing Line!

Listen to the music again. This time, pick up your flashlight or simply use your finger to draw in the air as you dance. Pay attention to the loops and lines you make as you sway to the beat! Are you wiggly or robotic? Do you hear patterns in the sound? Now think of your whole body as a moving sculpture while you listen. At the end of the song, strike a pose and freeze! What shapes does your body make? 

Let’s record what we are hearing, feeling, and seeing. Play the music again, go over to the paper that is taped to the wall, pick up your drawing tool, and express the emotion of the sound through your line. Just like when we drew our breath, there is no “right way” to draw what you hear. Let yourself play inside the music. You are dancing through your line. Get your whole body into the dance by making big marks on your paper! Press hard or soft—even use the side of your crayon for a really loud sound! Think about if you can hear a color in the sound. Is the music a slow, cool color or does it have a fiery, fast tempo? Choose a color to match what you hear—and dance across the paper! 

Check out these artworks from the collection for more inspiration!

John Altoon, Solo Flight on Jazz West Coast (album cover), 1957

Charles Gaines, Trisha Brown Dance: Set #3, 1980–1981

Joan Mitchell, Time for Eggs, 1977

Vera Liskova, Music, 1980

If you share your artwork on social media, tag us at @lacma! We love seeing your art!

Check out other Andell Family Sundays Anytime activities on YouTube and Unframed