The Marilyn Meltzer Prize Award in Design
Marilyn Meltzer is a prominent artist and fiber sculptor whose work is represented in numerous museums and private collections. This award commemorates her lifelong interests by honoring a student who has shown an ability to “combine outstanding design with effective use of color.”
I submitted the following proposal to the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University School of Design, as part of the application for the Marilyn Meltzer Prize Award in Design.
Reintroducing Jazz to My Generation Through the Album Cover
In today’s day and age where music is streamed and no longer purchased, the jazz album cover has been reduced to a 2”x2” square confined to the screen of one’s iPhone. If I close my eyes I can see the album cover for John Coltrane’s “Blue Train” and I start to hear the title track playing in my head. When I listen to the song “Blue Train” I visualize a mix of colors, the most prominent among them being a bright red, the sound of John Coltrane’s saxophone. With the support of the Marilyn Meltzer Prize award I want study the relationship between sound, color, and mood as I redesign the covers of some of the most quintessential jazz albums ever recorded.
I developed an appreciation for jazz music at a young age through my father. I remember our early morning drives to school when the radio was always tuned to the local jazz station, KJAZZ 88.1, broadcasting from the California State University Long Beach campus. I grew up idolizing jazz greats like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Kenny Garrett. I admired these jazz musicians so much that despite growing up with a father who played the trumpet I chose to play the alto saxophone. Playing lead alto saxophone in my school jazz band was of one of the most exciting and unique experiences I’ve had. It is this excitement that I felt when playing lead alto sax that I want to bring to the album covers I redesign.
Some of the most iconic album covers that I can recall are those produced by the recording label, Blue Note Records. The label derives its name from the characteristic “blue note,” that can be heard throughout the entire genre of jazz, and the note is called such because it evokes a somber feeling in the listener, like in Miles Davis’ “’Round Midnight.” Album covers produced by Blue Note Records relied heavily on the use of in-studio photographic imagery. For the avid jazz listener of the 1950s and 1960s I can only image the thrill it must have been for them to see a photograph of their favorite jazz musician on the cover of the latest Blue Note record release. I feel like the excitement of this era has been greatly reduced and I want to reintroduce it to my generation.
Not only do I want to reintroduce the genre of jazz to my peers but I want to do justice to the jazz album cover by creating actual vinyl record sleeves. Recently, vinyl has seen a resurgence among my generation and I want to leverage this by showcasing my redesigns in vinyl format. Also, unlike Blue Note Records’ heavy reliance on photography in their album covers, I want to use color to convey the feelings that each jazz album produces. I know that color will be integral to generating the interest and excitement that a photograph might unable to, because to my generation, the faces of many of the jazz greats are unknown.
Throughout this process I will use some of the funds provided by the Marilyn w Prize Award to purchase and listen to the jazz records which I will be redesigning. Funds will also go to printing the redesigned vinyl record sleeves at a high production quality. Remaining funds will be used to produce a multimedia gallery experience showcasing the redesigned album covers, at one of the campus gallery spaces. I plan to include video and music when showcasing my work in the hopes of generating interest and excitement when reintroducing jazz to my generation. Thank you for your time and consideration.