Posts Tagged 'musicians'

Musical Musings

Think back to your favorite scene in a movie. Was it action packed? Romantic? Full of suspense? Chances are that the music—the film’s score—helped create the mood of the scene.

Now think about your favorite work of art. How would you describe its mood or feeling? How did the artist convey that mood? When we describe the mood of a work of art, we typically think about visual elements like color, the quality of the brushstrokes, and composition. But sometimes, even with a work of art, music can enhance your experience.

We recently paired up with two local musicians, Clint Niosi and Claire Hecko, and invited them to imagine one minute “film scores” for a handful of works of art in the 18th Century European Gallery. Meet the musicians, learn about their process, and hear a sample of their work below.

Tell us about yourselves-in 50 words or less.

Clint Niosi: I’m a songwriter, film score composer, and audio engineer from Fort Worth.  I also work as a Digital Technology Specialist for the Art + Art History Department at UT Arlington.

Claire Hecko: INFP, musician, composer, picture maker, seamstress, cat lover and motorcycle enthusiast, among other things. My primary instruments are viola and bass. I like long walks in the desert and good manners.

How would you describe your process of creating a “score” for a work of art?

Clint Niosi: While I wasn’t really sure how to approach it initially, I ended up using basically the same process I would have used for a film score. I try to find the emotional core of the scene and use the music to help move the story forward. Once I feel like I’ve found the mood I add or take away layers until it feels right with the picture.

Claire Hecko: I have very little education in music theory, so I’m not entirely sure how to best describe my process. I consider the feelings I want to embody in a piece and try to determine how to best represent them musically. Often, this entails picking up an instrument and just playing around on it until I come up with something that will serve as a foundation for the piece. From there, I begin adding layers to build a complete composition.

Were there any challenges?

Clint Niosi: Yes there were. Creating a modern composition outside the historical milieu in which the paintings are set seemed very daunting. Also, the limited duration of the format (one minute per piece) was an additional challenge. Some of the paintings have very complex stories and complicated emotions to convey. Ultimately I just dove in and had fun with it.  

Claire Hecko: My biggest challenge was creating the “score” for The Harp Lesson by Jean Antoine Theodore Giroust – I had many ideas, but no access to (or training to play) a harp. Thankfully, technology allowed me to replicate the sound of a harp on a laptop.

What did you enjoy most about this opportunity?

Clint Niosi: It was such a treat to have a chance to collaborate with the DMA. I’m an art enthusiast and a long time fan of the DMA’s permanent collection. The chance to dive into something like this is something I will always remember. It was a learning experience.

Claire Hecko: My degree is in Art History, a subject close to my heart. The opportunity to represent a work of art through music was very exciting for me!

Stop by the Pop-Up Art Spot this Saturday to check out an iPod and listen to the “film scores” composed and recorded by Clint Niosi and Claire Hecko.

Jessica Fuentes
Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections

Emily Wiskera
Manager of Access Programs

Everything Zen

Alternative rock band Weezer’s second album, Pinkerton, was released in 1996 to little fanfare. Panned by critics and lackluster sales, the sophomore entry was a far cry from the band’s multi-platinum debut, the self-titled Weezer with the hit single “Buddy Holly.”

Retrospectively, however, the album has become a cult classic and is regarded as one of the most significant albums of the 1990s. Exemplifying this polarity is the fact that Rolling Stone readers voted Pinkerton as the third worst album of the year in 1996, yet six years later in 2002 voted it the 16th greatest album of all time.

A modified image of a print from Ando Hiroshige’s Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō, a copy of which is in the DMA’s collection, was chosen for Pinkerton’s album cover. Kambara: Snow at Night depicts a snowy evening in Kambara village—an unlikely scenario, since Kambara was located in a temperate area.

Hiroshige’s romantic enhancement of reality for emotional effect makes the woodblock print a fine choice for Pinkerton, since it is such an expressive album. Angst-filled, youthful poets so often tend to exaggerate events for greater dramatic impact. Interestingly, examination of the resulting production style and various thematic elements in Pinkerton inextricably link it to Zen Buddhism and other aspects of Japanese culture.

Pinkerton features a very raw and abrasive sound in an effort to evoke a live performance. The recordings for Pinkerton were done in one take, meaning everything was recorded simultaneously with little to no overdubbing after the fact. For example, lead singer and principal composer Rivers Cuomo recorded the vocal tracks with his fellow band members in unison around three microphones close to one another. This recording method contrasts with the way vocals are usually recorded, in an isolated chamber after the instrumental tracks have been laid down. Instead, the band member’s vocal tracks bleed into one another much like the guitar, drum, and keyboard work do. Little if any editing was done to their singing or the instruments. The resulting quality of the album sounds extremely rugged and unrefined, which contributes to its liveliness and emotional intensity.

Rivers Cuomo spent his early years in upstate New York living at a Buddhist Zen Center. Eventually he would move to Yogaville, an enclave of the spiritual practice in Virginia, where he remained for the rest of his childhood. These experiences no doubt contributed to the direction of production for Pinkerton. The desire to create the audio effect of an energetic, live performance is reflective of the fluid, in-the-moment perspective treasured in Zen Buddhism for the creation of art.

Moreover, Zen artistic values that permeate into the culture of Japan to this day treasure simplicity and the rough. Indeed, Zen art seeks to inspire contemplation of human existence as something that is ephemeral, lonely and melancholic through its emphasis on imperfection.

In this way a crooked, shabby cup is perceived as more attractive than an immaculate, symmetrical, and fastidiously constructed bowl made of fine material. This perspective results from the fact that the malformed cup encourages reflection on the nature of reality instead of merely being aesthetically pleasant to look at, like the “perfect” bowl.

Due to Pinkerton’s initial poor sales and critical reception, Weezer nearly disbanded, going on hiatus for 5 years until 2001’s Weezer (Green Album). With this new release onward, the band has not recorded in the atypical fashion they had on Pinkerton, instead choosing production enhancements that resulted in greater polish and clearness. The Zen artistic values of spontaneous creation and greater emotional depth achieved through imperfection serve to illuminate the artistic brilliance and relevance the band was able to achieve at that moment.

Artworks shown:

  •  Ando Hiroshige, Kambara: Snow at Night, 1834, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus.
  • Deep Bowl for Tea Ceremony (Mukozuke), Japan, A.D. 1568-1615, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard D. Haynes.

Devon Hersch
McDermott Intern for Asian Art

Music Connections to the DMA Collection

The DMA’s collection offers a number of opportunities for cross-disciplinary study. Shannon has written blogs that focus on the literary connections to Abstract Expressionist works of art and other areas of the DMA’s collection. In this post, I thought I could share a few of my favorite music-related objects.

Below is a collage by Romare Bearden called Soul Three. In addition to being an accomplished artist, Romare Bearden also occasionally composed jazz music and associated with musicians such as Branford Marsalis, Duke Ellington, and Fats Waller. This musical influence appears frequently in his collages in the form of musical themes and subjects. Soul Three, for instance, shows three musicians playing guitar and tambourine.

Romare Bearden used music in many ways when he created art. Sometimes he drew while listening to music. He described this experience by saying, “[o]ne of the things I did was to listen to a lot of music. I’d take a sheet of paper and just make lines while I listened to records—a kind of shorthand to pick up the rhythm and the intervals.” Bearden also advised that, in making art, you “become a blues singer—only you sing on the canvas. You improvise—you find the rhythm and catch it good, and structure as you go along—then the song is you.”

Romare Bearden, Soul Three, 1968, Dallas Museum of Art, General Acquisitions Fund and Roberta Coke Camp Fund

Shiva, the Hindu god of creation and destruction, is shown in the bronze sculpture below in his most transcendent state as Nataraja, or Lord of the Dance. Here, Shiva is the embodiment of cosmic energy who dances the rhythm of the universe and beats his drum in time. Music and dance, in the Hindu tradition, are considered pathways to divinity, and worshippers perform to honor the god.

Shiva Nataraja, 11th century, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, the Hamon Charitable Foundation, and an anonymous donor in honor of David T. Owsley, with additional funding from The Cecil and Ida Green Foundation and the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund

 

Next, this black serpentine bust of Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter shows the musician as he appeared a few years before his death. Leadbelly was a troubled folk singer and two-time murderer who was reputedly pardoned for his crimes when the governor of Texas heard his music. In this bust, he is portrayed sensitively by the sculptor Michael G. Owen, Jr.

Michael G. Owen Jr., Leadbelly, 1943, Dallas Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Gooch Fund Purchase Prize, Twelfth Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1951

 

Finally, for the Senufo peoples of Côte d’Ivoire, the drum is an instrument of music and communication. Drums are used by Senufo women to accompany songs sung in a secret language to deal with gender conflicts and other frustrations, and serve as a sort of “public address system” for the Senufo community announcing important events or rituals. They are also pounded to create a rhythm which encourages competition among young men hoeing the fields.

Drum, 20th century, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus

 

These are only a few of the many works at the DMA which celebrate music. List your favorites in the comments below.

 

Tom Jungerberg

IMLS Grant Coordinator


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