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Music Room Classical music Space in Music and Painting
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Space in Music and Painting
Do musicians work with space?

"First element to consider when working in plastic art is the element of space, what kind of parallelogram it is and determining the vibration (rhythm) that will go through it." Julie Polidoro

In a conversation with my painter friend Julie Polidoro we compared the material we are each working with. She is working with the idea of space, filled versus empty space and the vibrations or as she says, rhythm going through it thus creating the movement.

Music is not a visual art and the element of space in it was always the “changing” factor musician encounter while playing in different places and halls.

Starting to work again on some Bach Preludes and Fugues, it made me think of what space I am working with. There is the space in reality, that is my practicing room or the hall I play in, but it is true that I am the person to decide on the length of the sound’s vibration and this vibration would be the imaginary space I would think the piece was written for.

Another way Julie mentioned as giving a feeling of space is the use of colors. Blue colors give the impression of being more distant while red and brown ones make you feel closer. The feeling of distance in music is naturally also connected with the timber, a soft piano will more often suggest a distance, a strong forte is more present and therefore near us, but it is not always the case and no generalization should be made on this as there is also the intimacy of the whispered sound that is very soft and yet very close, as if played especially for your own ear.

Any thoughts on the subject?
I don't know if there can a more dramatic spatial moment that a sculptor experiences when the work's first piercing lets "space" flow through it.  The interaction of object and space is suddenly more complex, but especially more intimate as the two clutch one another.  A sculptor's work with space is direct.  The sculpture's space is ours, the space we navigate every day.  A painterly space is abstracted a degree.  We must project ourselves into the painting.  As opposed to the visual artistic experience, the musical experience is within.  Perhaps musical spaces, experienced intimately in the listener's inner processes, promise a deep intuition of how life as a mental process arguably has an connection to illusion-- and that our everyday as well as our inspired thoughts and feelings are conventional constructions (whose contingency is hidden) on a blank spatial ground.  The emptiness upon which music occurs is the same upon which we occur.  That can be said of all art using space, but perhaps music is already detached from many of what makes us assign reality to what we think and feel in order to let us act with agency.

In response to ted berryman
To better understand this interesting topic, I come back to  Proust’s experience, as the great writer was fascinated by both music and painting, weaving into his novels a mixture of concerts and painting exhibitions.

As an example, I’ll take the “sonata”, and in particular, the “little phrase”, a legendary musical form used by Proust to show the quintessential beauty of music.

Even if music is not a visual art, Proust developed the idea that an exceptional musical phrase could change our perception of space and envelop our universe as if it were possessed. The piano becomes in that sense:

“un clavier incommensurable où, séparées par d’épaisses ténèbres inexplorées, jouent des millions de touches » (du côté de chez Swann)
«an immeasurable keyboard where, separated by deep unexplored darkness, millions of keys are playing.” (Swann’s Way).

Coming to the idea of the use of colors, Proust explained that the “little phrase” was powerful enough to bring new colors and become:

“ comme un arc-en-ciel, dont l’éclat faiblit et se relève”  
“like a rainbow whose brilliance dims and then returns in all its intensity”.
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Latest Post: September 4, 2012 at 11:05 PM
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