Perception (Shift) III Video-Sound-Painting 2018 Ink on paper, video
Abstract: In this essay I want to explain how I made this artwork in order to show how it is connected to different topics in Art History, Music, Visual Arts and Philosophy. It will touch upon topics such as
Ethical aspects of improvised music
Painting vs. Video: Do we still need paintings?
Picture I: Perspective (Shift) III
What you see in front of you is an abstract painting and within it a music video. The video functions as a tool which let you see how the music you hear was produced. Namely by saxophone reeds stroking a snare drum. The musician plays a piece which is based on an abstract painting of mine (which you can see further down). By that he interprets and reads the painting as a graphic score. Graphic scores developed in the 20th century as an extension to traditional notation practices. An advantage can be seen in the possibilities of expressing different musical levels at the same time, making room for improvisations or chances and expressing what could not be expressed with traditional models. Due to this factors this approach brings new challenges for the players as well as for the listeners. Unfamiliar sounds and unexpected changes of the music invites both, the musician(s) and the attendees, to rethink their customary concepts and prejudices about music and the use of instruments. I want to introduce you briefly to one example of a graphic score: Tom Phillips – Golden Flower Piece (source: http://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/latest/graphic-scores-art-music-pictures/phillips-golden-flower-piece/ effective 28/5/2018)
Picture II: Tom Phillips - Golden Flower Piece
"This piece by Tom Phillips uses uppercase letters to show notes that should be played in the bass, and lowercase letters played in a higher register. You're allowed to add flats and sharps as you please. And the dots around the notes are supposed to help with how loud to play the note, and how long to hold it for. He's blocked off a few notes too (you're not allowed to play a B flat at all)." (http://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/latest/graphic-scores-art-music-pictures/phillips-golden-flower-piece/ effective 28/5/2018) As you can see the notation differs extremely from the well known classical model. By that it can emphasize different aspects of the music e.g. the loudness of a note. In a traditional model the composer has choices between letter symbols for different varieties of the volume and the dynamic. The most common for quiet are piano: p, pianissimo: pp, pianopianissimo: ppp, mezzopiano: mp, fortepiano: fp and the most common for loud are forte: f, fortissimo: ff, fortefortissimo: fff, mezzoforte: mf, fortepiano: fp. There are also symbols for crescendo (continual increase of the volume) and decrescendo (continual decrease of the volume). With the method seen in the graphic score above, the musician has a more precise idea of how lively and movingly the composer wants the notes to sound. It is less static than the traditional way of notating. And this is only one aspect, if you want to learn more about graphic notations you will find further readings at the end of this essay. Getting back to the Video-Sound-Painting the case varies from a traditional graphic score. The painting which was used as a score for this piece was not meant to be a graphic score. It was “simply” a painting. But a different approach and interpretation shows a strong musical aspect of it. Those aspects are rhythm, density and time.
Picture III: Perception (Shift) I. The "graphic score".
You can try it yourself. E.g. look from the right side to the left. At the beginning the patterns are quite loose and irregular. There are negative spaces - the white parts, which can be seen equal to a musical pause - which are at “the beginning” quite long and frequent. This changes if you continue the movement of your eyes to the left. The patterns get denser, which can be associated with loudness and/or fastness. Musically it will be the part with the most density. After that, the patterns get less, more spaces/pauses appear again and it ends in a continual conclusion of the music. There are more ways to interpret it but lets move forward to other factors of this artwork.
I made the Video-Sound-Painting while listening to the music in this piece.
Here you can see the video from the painting:
The music influenced the movement of my hands, their speed and their pressure. It happend on a specific day, in a specific room in a specific mood. All those factors find their way into the actual piece you are seeing. This purposely subjective and expressive approach can be summarized under the term expressionism. A Britannica article defines the term expressionism as an
"[…] artistic style in which the artist seeks to depict not objective reality but rather the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse within a person. The artist accomplishes this aim through distortion, exaggeration, primitivism, and fantasy and through the vivid, jarring, violent, or dynamic application of formal elements. In a broader sense Expressionism is one of the main currents of art in the later 19th and the 20th centuries, and its qualities of highly subjective, personal, spontaneous self-expression are typical of a wide range of modern artists and art movements." (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica 2017).
More information coming soon.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (2017): Expressionism. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. www.britannica.com/art/Expressionism (Access date June 21, 2018).