“The Music of ABBA”

National Philharmonic’s Color the Music Fall, 2019 Project



ABBA is a Swedish pop group formed in Stockholm in 1972. The name is an acronym of their first names (Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny, and Anni-Frid). They went on to become one of the most successful groups in the history of popular music, winning many competitions throughout Europe, selling over 380 million records, and topping the pop music charts worldwide from 1974 to 1982. Their song “Waterloo” won the Eurovision Song Contest of 1974 and launched their popularity worldwide. ABBA was the first group from a non-English speaking country to consistently be at the top of the charts in English speaking countries.

In 1999, their music was adapted into the hit musical “Mamma Mia!” which toured worldwide. in 2008, a movie by the same name was released, and a sequel “Mamma Mia! Here we Go Again!” was released in 2018. The group was very popular in Latin America and they recorded many of their hit songs in Spanish. ABBA was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2010.

For more information on the group, their rise to fame, and their music check out the following website:


ARRIVAL from Sweden was founded by Vicky Zetterberg in 1995 in Gothenburg, Sweden and soon became one of the world’s most popular ABBA tribute bands. The band has toured in 60 countries and has appeared in several TV and radio shows all over the world. (from the NP website concert information: https://www.nationalphilharmonic.org/subscriptions-tickets/the-music-of-abba/ ) At Strathmore, ARRIVAL will perform many ABBA hits with the National Philharmonic.


Using the thumping beats and wistful melodies of ABBA’s music you will make an artwork that encapsulates the liveliness and excitement of the time. Your painting will combine techniques to create a rich, energetic tapestry of color and texture.


1. Listen to the following examples of ABBA’s music:

2. Let the music inspire your art!! Listen for:

  • Is the sound loud and bold or soft and gentle?
  • Happy?
  • Reflective?
  • Sad?
  • Quick or slow?
  • Smooth?
  • Staccato (detached)?
  • Is there a steady beat or does it change often?
  • What instruments do you hear?
  • When you close your eyes and listen, do you think of particular colors?

 How can your art reflect your answers to these questions?


(Special thanks to Sara Lucas-Dreiss, Curriculum & Instruction Specialist and Adapted Art Teacher, Longview School MCPS for her help in designing this “Disco Painting” curriculum.)

heavy white paper approximately 9”x12”
watercolors — variety of colors
tempera paint — one or more colors
marbles of varying sizes
stippling brush
shallow box that the paper can fit in flatly; must have sides for marbles to roll in

1. Using various colors, watercolor the entire surface of the paper- make it wet
2. You may soak up water with paper towel or tissues; this will lighten the color and add texture
3. As the painting dries, add additional paint to darken the color
4. When the paper is almost dry use a different color and a coarser brush on the dried paint, adding texture & depth of color to your piece.
a. You may tap on the paint tray to distribute the paint more evenly throughout the brush
b. Use this dry brushing technique to cover a lot of the paper’s
5. Choose at least one color of tempera paint. Select sizes and number of marbles you want to paint with
6. Drop the marbles in the desired tempera paint and roll around to cover with paint
7. Place paper in box top, scoop out marbles with spoon, dump them on the paper; roll them around the box
8. Remove marbles and repeat as desired
9. Let art dry completely, then write your name, grade, and school ON THE BACK

Here are some student examples of Disco Painting seen in the spring 2019 MCPS Student Art Showcase at Montgomery Mall.

1. Fashion Design (either for guys or girls!)
a. think of your fashion design in terms of line:  does the music inspire flowing, seamless clothing (either simple or complex) or does it inspire angular, sharp-lined apparel?
b. what colors would be reflective of the music?
c. decorative trim?
d. create a fashion “concept drawing” design using paper no larger than 9”x12”
2. Wall art inspired by the colors heard in the music of ABBA


  • Art should be on white paper and may be backed with black paper for display. The recommended paper size is 9”x12” (with an additional 1” black border if you are backing it). Student name and school should be written on the back of the artwork and labels will be created for them. Because of space available for mounting our art shows, art greater than the recommended size will be accepted only after consultation.
  • Accepted artwork will be displayed in the Strathmore Concert Hall lobby the weekend
    of November 2, 2019 during the National Philharmonic concert.
  • Artwork will be accepted through 4pm on Wednesday, October 30, 2019 in the National Philharmonic Office located on the second floor of Strathmore.


Sara Josey at altosara@gmail.com