Record Cover, Provocative Percussion
This is a record cover. It was made for (as the client) Command Records. We acquired it in 2009. Its medium is offset lithograph on white wove paper, gate-fold cardboard, black vinyl 33 1/3 rpm record. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.
This is one of a set of seven album covers (1959–61) designed by Josef Albers for Command Records. The compositions for the series are abstract, relying on differences of scale and color to convey syncopation, rhythm, and tone.
Albers, principally associated with the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany, prior to teaching at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, was instrumental in developing the Department of Design at Yale University. His investigation of color theory is best known through his series of paintings and prints, Homage to the Square (begun in 1949), and his publication, Interaction of Color (1963), which influenced color field painting and the conceptual artists of the 1960s.
Command Records was founded in 1959 by Enoch Light, a classically trained violinist active as a band leader and recording entrepreneur after World War II. Bringing a high degree of sophistication to the marketing of stereo recordings, Light selected and arranged musical compositions, taking advantage of the right-left channelization of the new stereo equipment. To match the avant-garde nature of the musical compositions, Light asked Albers to produce designs that would evoke the syncopated spirit of the music and suggest the avant-garde nature of the music scene. Each cover in the series is a visual metaphor for the tempos and rhythms of the instruments featured on the tracks, including marimbas, trap sets, and bongos. Additionally, these albums showcase the innovative gatefold cover, which was first introduced by Light for Command Records. The gatefold design allowed for expanded liner notes and technical commentary pertaining to the production of the stereo recordings.
The critic Martin Filler has commented on how gestalt perception influenced Albers’s designs for the Command Records album covers. According to Filler, Albers is able to graphically convey the effect of listening to the musical arrangements by equating the sounds of the percussion instruments to abstract geometrical forms of varying size. Albers was known to have been interested in gestalt theory as early as 1930, when he attended lectures on the subject delivered by Count Karlfried von Dürckheim at the University of Leipzig. Other colleagues of Albers at the Bauhaus, including Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, were also keenly interested in the implications of gestalt theory on modern painting.
This is one of four Albers designs for Command Records under consideration for acquisition. These works will enhance the museum’s collection of graphic design by significant designers of second half of 20th century.
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Cite this object as
Record Cover, Provocative Percussion; Client: Command Records ; USA; offset lithograph on white wove paper, gate-fold cardboard, black vinyl 33 1/3 rpm record; 2009-44-3-a/c
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Hear, See, Play: Designing with Sound.