Sunday, 4 December 2016

Art and Music

I decided to get deeper into the idea of interpreting music in my art work I would try writing some music inspired by an artwork. I wrote two pieces about prints I have recently been looking at, I also found it a useful way to analyze the composition of these works in more detail.

The first print I analyzed like this was by Stefan Barton. I started by trying to create the aesthetic of the piece with one sound. This chord is reminiscent of the sound of the horn pictured and also expresses the dark character of the image through dissonance and the small highlights are shown by one higher register note.

I then went on to recreate the circular shape through a repeating ostinato based around that chord with one note altered in the bass. I developed these ostinati into a short melody, then came back to the ostinato and chord, reinforcing the circular structure. I used gradual increases and decreases in tempo to accentuate this circular motion.

This is my short piece about the Estuary by Suzie Mackenzie .

The feature of this print that struck me most was the way my eye was lead around the image so I used that as my starting point. I started by creating a short passage about the distant hills then moved onto the closer hills, then the water, then the darker, more textured land in the foreground and finally returned to the hills. I used a mixolydian mode and 6/8 meter typical of Celtic music of the Scottish Highlands which set the scene effectively. This was mainly an interpretation of the narrative of the image rather than the visual qualities, however the modal harmony is comparable to a reduced color palette as it does not have the same range of harmonic color as the major or minor keys. Other details were more inspired by visual features, in my first section I used a high register to represent the light values showing distance, I moved down an octave to show the closer hills in darker value. In the next section about water I tried to recreate the sense of water flowing, I realize now that this is also describing the narrative of the image, I imagine the water flowing but there is not a specific visual representation of any movement of water. When representing the texture of the land in the foreground I showed the dark fuzzy textures with thick slow moving chords related to the previous passage. I then returned to the beginning melody to show the journey taken when viewing this work.

It was a very interesting exercise, particularly when I reflect on it now and realize that there are many aspects of the music that I took from the narrative of the images, not just the visual qualities, which invites the question would it really make sense to make purely abstract music from a representational work? Conversely, my next assignment is to create a representational collagraph, does it make sense to try and interpret purely abstract music in a representational image? Even if I used the music to inspire a series of backgrounds to a representational image, surely the image should have some connection with the music?

This exercise also allowed me to begin to deepen my thinking on which features of music I might represent visually. In the last research post I did on music and art I looked at some visualizations that specifically focus on color and pitch. I knew there were many more connections that could be made and this short exploration has already shown me that each piece of music would lend itself to different visual interpretations. I know I want to represent the overall aesthetic, and I think I have done that, but I was surprised how much I used the narrative of the work to achieve this. In my first music and art research post I looked at a piece of music inspired by Van Gogh's Starry Night

Timbres, espace, mouvement

Henri Dutilleux 1978

I felt this was heavily influenced by the knowledge of Van Gogh's mental state at the time of painting, and a very different score would have been produced if that knowledge had not been available. When I first listened to this I thought I would be able to create music more focused on visual qualities, and was surprised how much I too was influenced by the narrative of the work.

There are many more aspects of this I would like to pursue:

  • Create music from a purely abstract work such as Jackson Pollock
  • Create a series of mono prints representing different sections of a piece of music
  • Create a layered mono print where layers represent different sections of a piece of music, I read about using spirits to thin oil based inks to create light washes, I am keen to try this
  • Take a piece of program music about a specific scene and create a representational artwork
However, are any of these ideas suitable to pursue for my representational collagraph? I have done a lot of drawing of plants and flowers, but I feel that the piece of music must dictate the subject, rather than trying to find music to fit a subject I have already investigated and have material for.

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